Dips For Dip NIght

– by Jakob Anderson, Food Writer –

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Every once in a while I over do it on the meats. It does not only just have to be a gorge the night before, I can go days on end eating animal protein for dinner. Clearly, I am by no means a vegetarian or vegan. I respect the decisions of those folk but don’t agree with them. I do enjoy a night off of meat however, for it checks a couple of boxes. It resets my body (I generally feel “fresh” or “pure” after eating a vegetarian meal), it allows me to branch out a tad and maybe try some foods that are not part of my normal regime, and it forces me to be creative! What you can think of when you take the animal protein off the plate is amazing. Now you’re probably saying, “okay, this all sounds great, so why not just eat vegetarian for all your meals and feel healthy all the time?” I’ll give you the honest truth. I don’t eat meat just because I want to load up on protein; the health benefits are there and you cannot deny this. I eat meat because above all, it’s delicious. Mic drop.

Dips can make a great alternative from meat for a meal.

Dips can make a great alternative from meat for a meal.

But meat is not on the menu tonight! I have mentioned in previous posts that my favourite cuisines tend to be from the Middle Eastern regions of the world. India, Morocco (I know its african), Israeli, these cuisines speak to my soul. It just so happens that these cultures tend to eat vegetarian on a regular basis, so when planning a vegetarian night for myself I think of these cultures. These cultures also cook a lot of stewed or pureed dishes that are meant to be eaten with bread or some form of vessel. My favourite vegetarian meal is something I like to call, “DIP NIGHT”. Mezze or salatim are examples the names commonly associated with “dips”. I’m talking about anything that can be scooped up via pita, socca, injera, naan. They are relatively easy to make and the options are limitless,—if manipulated the correct way, most products can make a delicious dip. There are a few rules however—do not hold back on the olive oil, do not hold back on the fresh herb, and finally,  garlic and onions make any dip better. If you follow these three rules, DIP NIGHT will be a huge success.

Here are some of my favourite dips. Use them as a guide, not as a recipe. They are simple in technique and can be applied to a variety of other vegetables or dried products. Feel free to top any of these recipes with extra yogurt, nuts, herbs, seasonings, cheese or oils.

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Eggplant based dips are great cold.

Stewed Eggplant

1 large eggplant

1 onion

5 cloves garlic

1 can tomatoes

2 tbsp harissa paste

Pinenuts (optional)

2 tbsp fresh coriander

Salt and pepper to taste

Olive oil

Sweat onion and garlic in medium pot with oil over medium heat. Add eggplant, tomatoes, harissa and bring to boil. Season to taste. Cover and cook for 40 minutes on low heat. Top with coriander, olive oil, pine nuts. Eat this warm or make night before AND EAT COLD (HINT).

Squash, Peas and Coconut Milk

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No matter the squash you choose, you can make a great dip out of it.

1 large squash (butternut, buttercup, acorn, kabocha), large dice

1 onion, large dice

5 cloves garlic, large dice

1 cup coconut milk, full fat

1 cup frozen green peas

2 tbsp curry powder

Salt and pepper to taste

Olive oil

Heat oven to 450. Wrap squash, onions and garlic in tinfoil with a few slugs of olive oil. Cook for about 30 minutes until squash is completely cooked through. Add squash, garlic and onions to medium pot with curry powder and coconut milk. Bring to simmer. Season and add peas. Turn off heat immediately, as you don’t want the peas to cook at all, just reheat. Mash up mixture with fork and top with olive oil.

Stewed Fava Beans

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Fava beans help to make an exceptionally well rounded dip, in terms of flavour and health benefits.

1 cup fava beans, soaked overnight

1 onion, small dice, save extra raw onion for garnish

5 cloves garlic, small dice

1 litre chicken stock

1 tsp cumin

1 fresh tomato, small diced

Salt and pepper to taste

2 tbsp fresh parsley

Olive oil

Sweat onion and garlic in large pot with oil over medium heat. Add fava beans, salt, pepper and cumin. Add chicken stock and cook until fave beans are literally mush, about an hour. Top with fresh parsley, tomato, onion and olive oil.

Beet and Labneh

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Use beets to make a sweeter tasting dip.

4 large beets (red or golden)

1 cup labneh

Squeeze of fresh lemon juice

Olive oil

Heat oven to 400.Wrap beets in tinfoil with a drizzle of olive, salt and pepper. Roast for an hour or until beets are cooked through. Once beets are cooked, cool them and dice them small. Mix beets, yogurt and lemon juice. Top with olive oil.

Jakob Anderson is a trained cook and food enthusiast who approaches cooking as something that connects people in ways they don’t realize. “I love talking about food, eating food, thinking food, discussing food, debating food, think about debating food, fooding food? I love food.”

You can follow Jakob on Twitter @jakobanderson and Q-Avenue @QuincyAvenue

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