Dips can make a super game-day spread

February 02, 2005|By Liz Atwood | Liz Atwood,SUN FOOD EDITOR

If you're planning on having a Super Bowl party, don't fuss over intricate appetizers. With their attention riveted on the game, your guests probably won't notice them anyhow.

Instead, grab a couple of bags of chips, set out some raw vegetables and keep your guests happy with dips.

"It's easy, fun and quick for the cook," says Diane Morgan, a cookbook author in Portland, Ore., whose latest book, Delicious Dips (Chronicle Books, 2004, $16.95), includes recipes ranging from the tried-and-true onion dip to the unusual Cherry Garcia dessert dip.

Morgan reckons there are two kinds of people: those who like to hand out fancy, bite-sized appetizers and those who'd rather stick a bowl of dip on the table and summon the troops.

"I'm really not a fussy appetizer person," she says.

Besides being easier on the cook, the communal aspect of dipping can help get the party going, she says. "You have people coming together who don't necessarily know each other."

Boston cookbook author Sally Sampson also counts herself among the cooks who would rather set out the dip than dote over hors d'oeuvres.

With just a few pantry items, such as artichoke hearts, canned beans, tuna, olives, cream cheese, mayonnaise and sour cream, a cook can make a variety of dips on the spot, she writes in her book, Party Dips (Harvard Common Press, 2004, $12.95).

But the real beauty of dips, Sampson says, is that they can be made before the guests arrive. In fact, most are actually better if the flavors have a chance to meld.

For a Super Bowl party, she recommends her husband's Classic Clam Dip, made with just four ingredients and served with chips or vegetables.

If your crowd is apt to crave more substantial fare, Morgan suggests Chorizo Chile Con Queso, a warm, cheesy dip perfect for crusty bread or tortilla chips.

Or, you can try creating your own dip. Local caterer and chef Diane Bukatman says the key is combining different flavors, such as peppers and cheese. "Don't put a lot of bland flavors together," she says.

She suggests combining ingredients in small quantities, a teaspoon at a time, to see what works. "You don't want to throw in a lot of flavors and have a nightmare in a bowl," she says.

Yet one of her favorite dip recipes, a hummus and feta-cheese mixture, was the result of an accident. One evening a friend offered to help out in the kitchen and inadvertently put the ingredients for two different dips together.

"When we mixed it up, it was fabulous," Bukatman says.

Mark's Classic Clam Dip

Makes 1 1/2 cups

one 8-ounce package cream cheese, at room temperature

one 6.5-ounce can minced clams, drained, reserving the liquid

1/4 cup minced red onion

Tabasco sauce to taste

Place the cream cheese in a shallow bowl and mash. Add the clams and onion and mash again. Add 3 to 4 tablespoons of the reserved clam juice and mash until the mixture has the consistency you like. Season with Tabasco.

Transfer to a serving bowl and serve immediately, or cover and refrigerate for up to 3 hours.

-- "Party Dips" (Harvard Common Press, 2004, $12.95)

Per 1/4 -cup serving: 180 calories; 11 grams protein; 14 grams fat; 8 grams saturated fat; 3 grams carbohydrate; 0 grams fiber; 62 milligrams cholesterol; 146 milligrams sodium

Chorizo Chile Con Queso

Makes 4 cups

1 tablespoon pure olive oil

1/4 pound bulk pork chorizo

1/2 medium white onion, cut into 1/4 -inch dice

2 poblano chiles roasted and cut into 1/4 -inch dice

2 canned chipotle chiles in adobe sauce, drained and diced

2 tomatoes, cored, halved, seeded and cut into 1/4 -inch dice

2 cups (8 ounces) shredded pepper Jack cheese

2 cups (8 ounces) shredded sharp cheddar cheese

1/2 cup heavy cream

In a 4-quart saucepan over medium heat, warm the olive oil and swirl to coat the pan. Add the chorizo and saute, stirring constantly and using the side of a spatula to break up the chunks, until cooked through, about 3 minutes.

Add the onion, chiles and tomatoes and saute, stirring frequently, until the onion softens, about 3 minutes. Turn the heat to medium-low and add both cheeses, stirring constantly, until the cheeses melt, about 2 minutes.

Add the cream and stir until heated through. Transfer to a fondue pot set over an alcohol or Sterno flame to keep warm. Serve immediately with tortilla chips, corn chips, crusty bread, potato chips or pita chips.

-- "Delicious Dips" (Chronicle Books, 2004, $16.95)

Per 1/4 -cup serving: 185 calories; 9 grams protein; 16 grams fat; 9 grams saturated fat; 2 grams carbohydrate; 0 grams fiber; 46 milligrams cholesterol; 262 milligrams sodium

Classic Fresh Tomato Salsa

Makes about 3 cups

4 large plum tomatoes, cored, seeded and cut into 1/2 -inch dice

1 jalapeno chile, seeds and ribs removed, minced

2 green onions, including green tops, cut crosswise into thin slices

3/4 cup diced red onion

1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro leaves

1/2 teaspoon minced garlic

1 1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

1 1/2 tablespoons fresh lime juice

1 teaspoon sugar

1/2 teaspoon ground coriander

1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

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