Greek Avocado & Herb Dip

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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!

Greek Avocado & Herb Dip

  • Servings: About 1 Quart
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Ingredients

  • 2 small, ripe Hass avocados
  • 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

Directions

  1. Cut the avocados in half, remove the pits, and scoop the flesh out of their shells. Roughly chop the avocado.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.

Fall Nachos (!!)

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This recipe began as a seasonal take on a classic game-day food, but as the real action has been in the political arena this fall, it morphed into a seasonal take on debate-day food. I can attest that a giant pan of nachos is the perfect distraction to make it through all ninety minutes of “civilized discussion” – provided they last that long.

An autumnal riff on traditional nachos, these have all the elements that make nachos so hard to stop eating- starting with crunchy corn chips and lots of cheese- but with creamy chipotle butternut squash and vinegary caramelized onions in lieu of salsa and refried beans.

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The nachos have a mild heat level, but if you like things hot, add another half or whole chipotle pepper. Remember, you can always make the squash spicier, but it’s much harder to cool it down- so start with one small chipotle pepper and go from there. The recipe calls for a mix of Monterey Jack, the classic nacho cheese, and Fontina Val D’Aosta, a mild and nutty Italian cheese. It might seem like an odd combo but the two complement each other nicely. (If you can find it, use Italian Fontina cheese- as opposed to domestic Fontina. It’s more expensive, but infinitely better.)

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Finally- full disclosure here-  I originally added the salted pepitas and diced avocado because the nachos looked a little brown without them, but they ended up being the perfect addition as that extra bit of creaminess and salty crunch makes each bite sing. (And, really, is there anything avocado doesn’t improve?)

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Make these next Wednesday for the final debate, along with a big batch of margaritas, and if nothing else, they’ll be something else to talk about when you just can’t think about the election anymore. Or, make them on November 8 with a HUGE batch of margaritas.

Butternut Squash & Caramelized Onion Nachos

Ingredients

  • 1 small butternut squash, peeled, seeded and ¾” inch diced
  • 4 tbs extra virgin olive oil, divided
  • ½ tsp ground cinnamon
  • 3 tbs unsalted butter, softened, divided
  • 4 small yellow onions, sliced 1/8” thick
  • 2 tsp apple cider vinegar
  • 1 small ( or ½ one large) chipotle pepper in adobo sauce, such as Goya
  • 1 tbs maple syrup
  • 1/3 cup chicken broth, such as College Inn
  • 16 oz. bag lightly salted corn tortilla chips
  • 3 cups shredded Fontina D’Aosta cheese  (3/4 lb with the rind)
  • 3 cups shredded Monterey Jack cheese (8 oz)
  • 1 Hass avocado, small-diced
  • ¼ cup salted pepitas
  • kosher salt

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Place the squash on a sheet pan, add 2 tbs olive oil, the cinnamon and ½ tsp salt and toss lightly with your hands. Roast for 30-35 minutes, until tender, tossing twice during cooking with a metal spatula so the cubes brown evenly.  Set aside the squash and the pan.
  3. Meanwhile, heat 1 tbs of the butter and 2 tbs of the olive oil in a large (12”) sauté pan over medium heat. Add the onions and cover for 10 minutes to let them steam. Remove the lid and continue to cook over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, for about 45 minutes, until the onions are caramelized and golden brown. If the onions are cooking too fast, lower the heat. Add the vinegar and ½ tsp salt and cook for 2 more minutes, scraping the brown bits from the pan. Remove from the heat and set aside.
  4. Place the cooked squash in the bowl of a food processor (or powerful blender such as a Vitamix.) Add the chipotle pepper, maple syrup, chicken broth, remaining 2 tbs butter, and 1/2 tsp salt and process until smooth. If the puree seems very thick (this will depend on the size of your squash) add an additional 1/4 cup chicken stock.
  5. Spread one layer of chips onto the sheet pan you used to roast the squash. Spoon half the squash mixture on top, distributing it as evenly as you can. Spoon half the caramelized onions on top, followed by half the Fontina and half the Monterey Jack. Repeat with remaining chips, squash, onions and cheese to make one more layer. Bake for 10 minutes, until the cheese has melted and is beginning to brown at the edges.
  6. Sprinkle with the avocado and pepitas and serve immediately.