When I have friends over for dinner, I very often have a big crudité platter out on the table when everyone arrives. It’s an easy hors d’ouevre that I can throw together quickly, and one that works for almost any crowd, season and occasion. So often crudités are boring and uninspired: round plastic trays, limp celery, gloopy white dip… you get the idea. But by taking a little extra time to make a delicious homemade dip, and choosing fresh and colorful veggies, you can turn something that’s usually underwhelming into an edible work of art.
First, let’s talk about this Greek Avocado & Herb Dip. Made with Greek yogurt, feta, and avocado, it’s thick and creamy but much lighter than sour cream-based dips. And with lots of lemon juice and fresh green herbs, it’s bright and refreshing and perfect for spring. The best part is, it’s really easy to make. All you do is combine the ingredients in a food processor or Vitamix, and blend until everything is smooth and the prettiest shade of green!
The lemon juice in the dip keeps the avocado from turning brown for a surprisingly long time- even 24 hours later, it’s as green and fresh as it was on day one. This recipe makes a big batch, so it’s perfect for a party, but you can easily halve it. Or, you could make the full recipe and repurpose the leftover dip the next day. Thin it with a little extra water and you’ll have a creamy green goddess salad dressing, or spread it on bread with some chicken breast and roasted red peppers for a seriously good sandwich. It’s even great as a condiment and makes a simple piece of grilled chicken or fish much more exciting.
But do give this a try with crudités first. My personal year-round faves are radishes, English cucumbers, and endive leaves, which make the perfect little dipping spoons. As spring vegetables come into season, sugar snap peas or thin stalks of fresh asparagus would be great, too. Use your own favorite vegetables, pick the freshest ones you can find, and don’t be surprised when they disappear in no time!
2 (7-oz.) containers Fage Greek yogurt (I use 0% fat)
½ cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
4 tablespoons chopped fresh dill
2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint
4 tablespoons minced fresh chives, plus extra for serving
1 teaspoon kosher salt
½ pound feta cheese, diced
Cut the avocados in half, remove the pits, and scoop the flesh out of their shells. Roughly chop the avocado.
Combine all ingredients except the feta in the bowl of a food processor (or powerful blender such as Vitamix) and pulse until combined. Add the feta and 2 tablespoons water and process until completely smooth. If the dip seems too thick (this will depend on the size of your avocados) add an additional tablespoon or two of water and pulse again until smooth.
Serve immediately with crudités or crackers, or refrigerate in a sealed container with a piece of plastic wrap pressed against of the surface of the dip to prevent browning, for up to 24 hours.
I have to start by saying that of as last Saturday, this is no ordinary pie, but an award-winning pie. Specifically, it won “Most Beautiful Pie” at what is universally considered to be the Oscars of pie-baking: my friend Louisa’s second-annual pie competition.
Let’s back up. The pie competition is a new tradition among my friends, but it has already become one of my favorites- I love the planning that goes into it, the brainstorming of crazy pie ideas and then finally, seeing what everyone comes up with. Did I mention we just stand around eating pie all night? That’s pretty great, too. Both years there have been a lot of inventive and delicious pies, and after coming in second in the ‘Best Savory Pie’ category last year, I was thirsty for a victory and determined to come up with a real showstopper this time around.
So, I turned to one of the most beloved flavor duos out there, good ole’ pb&j. Who didn’t love creamy (or crunchy!) peanut butter with a thin (or thick!) layer of jelly on white bread as a kid? However picky you were about your pb&j’s in elementary school, I think everyone can agree that the combination is as much a crowd-pleaser now as it was in fifth grade.
For my “grown-up” pb&j pie, I started with a graham cracker crust with a generous pinch of salt, and then I used natural peanut butter for the filling, which made it creamy and nutty but not too sweet. I topped the filling with a layer of tart raspberry jam, and then a nice thick layer of chocolate ganache. While definitely not traditional, the dark chocolate is pretty outrageous with both the raspberry jam and the peanut butter. And we were going for victory here!!
Finally, the raspberries on top make the pie look very grown-up and sophisticated – and probably had a lot to do with it winning the Most Beautiful award. Oh, and lest you think this pie only looks the part, I should mention that it was alsoa runner-up for Best Sweet Pie. Not just a pretty face- I mean-pie…
4 ounces dark or bittersweet chocolate, such as Lindt, coarsely chopped
2 half-pints fresh raspberries, for decoration
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
For the crust, combine the graham cracker crumbs, granulated sugar, butter, and ¼ teaspoon salt in a 9-inch pie pan. Using your hands, combine until the crumbs are moistened. Press into the bottom and up the sides of the pan, making sure the crust is an even thickness throughout. (I use a measuring cup to gently press the crust, including the corners.) Bake for 10 minutes and allow to cool completely.
For the peanut butter filling, beat the peanut butter, cream cheese, confectioners’ sugar, and vanilla on medium-high speed with a hand mixer for 3 minutes. In a separate bowl, whip ¾ cup of the heavy cream with a whisk or hand mixer until it forms soft peaks. Gently fold the cream into the peanut butter mixture with a rubber spatula.
Pour the peanut butter filling into the cooled crust. Spread the raspberry jam evenly on the top of the filling, leaving a narrow border of peanut butter around the perimeter visible. Place the pie in the freezer for 15 minutes while you make the chocolate ganache layer.
Place the chocolate and the remaining ¼ cup heavy cream into a heatproof bowl set over a pan of simmering water. Cook over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, just until smooth. Pour the chocolate ganache onto the center of the pie and using a rubber spatula, carefully spread it to cover the jam, leaving a narrow border of peanut butter and raspberry jam visible.
Arrange the raspberries on the ganache in concentric circles. Chill the pie for at least 2 hours and serve cold.