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Front Burner | GOOD COOKING / ABBY MANDEL

Skinny Dipping

August 23, 2000

Summertime: when the serving and the cooking should be easy. Dips and spreads fill the bill; all you need is a handsome serving bowl, a basket of chips and/or crudites and a pile of cocktail napkins. And dips and spreads taste even better if made ahead.

The following variations on popular themes are spreads if you make them thick, dips if you thin them out. Either way, stir them well before serving.

Here's a shortcut for recipes calling for minced garlic or shallots. Drop the cloves or shallots through the feed tube of a food processor while it's running, then measure them. Return the measured amount to the processor bowl without washing it and finish the dip in the bowl.

Mandel is a cookbook author.

Roasted Onion Dip California-Style

Active Work Time: 10 minutes * Total Preparation Time: 45 minutes plus 8 hours chilling

Spread this tasty mixture on little garlic toasts or use to fill celery sticks. As a dip, it's great with really good potato chips or crudites.

1 large onion, cut into 1-inch chunks

2 tablespoons butter, melted

1/3 cup light mayonnaise

1/3 cup light sour cream

1/3 cup light cream cheese

1 teaspoon beef bouillon powder

1/8 teaspoon salt

1 to 3 tablespoons milk

* Place onion in 13x9-inch baking pan. Drizzle with butter. Toss to mix. Roast, uncovered, at 425 degrees until lightly browned and caramelized, stirring several times, about 30 to 35 minutes. Cool on counter (or put in freezer briefly for a quick cool).

* Place mayonnaise, sour cream, cream cheese, bouillon powder and salt in food processor bowl fitted with metal blade. Mix well. Add onion; pulse on and off until slightly lumpy. An alternative: continuous processing for smooth consistency. Add milk for desired consistency. Refrigerate overnight or as long as 3 days.

* To serve, stir, adjust consistency according to its use and adjust seasoning. Serve chilled.

1 3/4 cups. Each tablespoon: 23 calories; 77 mg sodium; 6 mg cholesterol; 2 grams fat; 1 gram carbohydrates; 1 gram protein; 0.03 gram fiber.

Spinach and Artichoke Dip

Active Work and Total Preparation Time: 10 minutes plus 8 hours chilling

This also makes a great spread for toasted black bread.

1 1/2 tablespoons minced shallots

1/2 cup light cream cheese

1/2 cup light mayonnaise

1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

1 (10-ounce) package frozen chopped spinach, thawed, drained and squeezed dry

1 (6 1/2-ounce) jar marinated artichokes, drained

1 to 4 tablespoons milk

Salt

Dried red pepper flakes

* Place shallots, cream cheese, mayonnaise and Worcestershire sauce in food processor bowl fitted with metal blade. Process until smooth. Add spinach and artichokes; pulse on and off for slightly lumpy consistency and transfer to bowl. An alternative: continuous processing for smooth consistency. Add milk for desired consistency. Season to taste with salt and red pepper flakes. Refrigerate overnight or as long as 3 days.

* To serve, stir, adjust consistency according to its use and adjust seasoning. Serve chilled.

2 cups. Each tablespoon: 29 calories; 37 mg sodium; 4 mg cholesterol; 3 grams fat; 2 grams carbohydrates; 1 gram protein; 0.09 gram fiber.

Hummus With Sun-Dried Tomatoes and Green Onions

Active Work and Total Preparation Time: 10 minutes plus 8 hours chilling

This is good as a spread or dip with toasted pita triangles.

1 (15-ounce) can garbanzo beans, drained, liquid reserved

2 green onions (1 minced, 1 sliced for garnish)

1/3 cup tahineh (sesame paste)

2 to 3 tablespoons lemon juice

1 1/2 teaspoons minced garlic

3/4 teaspoon salt

Hot pepper sauce

8 large sun-dried tomatoes in oil, drained, slivered

* Place garbanzo beans, 3 tablespoons bean liquid, minced green onion, tahineh, 2 tablespoons lemon juice, garlic, salt and dash hot pepper sauce in food processor bowl fitted with metal blade. Pulse on and off for slightly lumpy consistency. An alternative: continuous processing for smooth consistency. Adjust consistency with additional reserved liquid and lemon juice. Refrigerate overnight or as long as 3 days.

* To serve, stir, adjust consistency according to its use (water is OK) and adjust seasoning. Garnish with sliced green onion and sun-dried tomatoes. Serve at room temperature or only slightly chilled.

1 2/3 cups. Each tablespoon: 39 calories; 136 mg sodium; 0 cholesterol; 2 grams fat; 5 grams carbohydrates; 1 gram protein; 0.37 gram fiber.

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