Bribe is such an ugly four-letter word. I know, there are five letters, but it seems to reek of four-letter connotation. I think inducement is a better way to phrase what is about to transpire.
Few of us, vegetarians aside, eat enough veggies. There are reasons for that, some of them legitimate genetic hangovers from our hunter-gatherer days [see my post on the book Taste]. But, today, few of us hunt and few gather, except in the parking lot of the super market where we find our veggies showcased in metal, plastic and glass. All of them wet from the sprays meant to inspire visions of freshness. It may be wet, but it traveled 800 miles or so to get to your store.
To get more veggies in us, we need that inducement. I won’t eat raw carrots. Period. Ever. Unless, and here’s the exception, there’s a dip involved. That’s where dill comes in. Distinctive and powerful, that dill flavor can make any raw veggie seem yummy. Well, almost any.
Far and wide, dill is an herb of utility and prowess. Scandinavians use it on seafood. In northern and central Europe dill is used in preparing root vegetables, cabbage, and cauliflower, transforming them from bland to interesting. In Turkey and Iran, dill is added to rice, beans, zucchini, and celery root. In Iran, spinach with dill and shallots is common. In India, it is lentils and spinach with both dill leaves and seeds. And when most of us pickle, the first herb in the jar is that sprig of dill. Dill pickles, anyone?
Not only does dill have that marked flavor, it also is able to mate well with other flavoring items: basil and capers, garlic and horseradish, mustard in all its forms, paprika both normal and smokey, and parsley and cilantro.
That means that when making a dip with dill, there is a bounty of additional notes you can add to the culinary score.
The starting point for many dip recipes is equal amounts of mayonnaise and sour cream. To that is added the dill [fresh, or in seed form], perhaps some salt and pepper, then onion and then … On and on it goes.
For the diary, you can use cream cheese, or yogurt or crème fraiche. And here “use” means substituting or adding and adjusting the relative proportions. There is no “right” way to make this dip — although your mother or mother-in-law might have an opinion.
So here’s my kitchen sink recipe for a dill dip with a matrix of ingredients and a spectrum of flavors. Feel free to adjust quantities, add new things, or leave some of these out. Just to stir your imagination, this recipe has no chili, no celery salt, no grated cucumber [a Greek thing], no bell pepper, and no hot sauce.
If you were in the Army, you’d recognized this as a free fire zone, but we’re in the kitchen instead. Have fun, and do taste test along the way.
Oh, as a little aside, if you like this dip, you could utter the phrase, “It’s a dilly.” People have been using dill for thousands of years. How long have we been saying, “It’s a dilly?” Only since about 1935. At that point, it meant something was remarkable or delicious. Now, if we say it, it means something is special. Like this dip.
Brian’s Dill Dip
Yield: 3 cups
- 1 cup mayonnaise
- 1 cup sour cream or crème fraiche
- 1 cup plain yogurt
- 3 tablespoons snipped fresh dill or 2 tablespoons dried
- 2 tablespoons chopped onion [scallions are fine]
- 2 garlic cloves, finely diced
- 2 tablespoons cilantro
- 2 tablespoons of lemon juice, plus more to taste
- Salt and pepper to taste
In a metal bowl, combine the mayonnaise, sour cream and yogurt. Mix until completely blended. Short of the salt and pepper, stir in the other ingredients being careful to fold over and obtain a uniform distribution of the flavor.
Stop and taste test. Add salt and pepper to refine the taste, then consider adjusting any of the earlier ingredients. If you using fresh dill, you may want more for a higher flavor level. If it’s too “dilly” then stir in more plain yogurt to ensure mellowness.
Source: Brian O’Rourke with input from Herbs & Spices: The Cook's Reference by Jill Norman
Photo Information Canon T2i, EFS 60 mm Macro Lens, F/4 for 1/25th second at ISO‑3200
You’re about to make a dip. What are you going to use. Onion soup mix in sour cream? Please, take a moment. Look at the post “Not Your Mother’s Onion Dip from Diane Morgan” published on April 17, 2014. There the base is sour cream but also mayo with some vinegar on the side for a dash of intense sour.
We’ll talk about dips in two steps: that base and then the add-ins. It’s just like ice cream.
Dip bases can be many things: sour cream, mayo, sour cream + mayo, mayo + olive oil, whipping cream + olive oil, yogurt, yogurt + sour cream, or crème fraiche. Those are ideas from my “go to” dip book, Delicious Dips by that same Diane Morgan. Clearly, there are more combinations available than listed here. You can play to achieve the flavor and texture you desire. And, in Diane’s book, she never goes to a triple combination, say, sour cream + yogurt + crème fraiche. It’s not just the ingredients, either, but the relative proportions.
Once you have your base, what do you put in? Again, that packaged onion soup mix should just be put aside. Cooking, well caramelizing, your own onion will create a far more satisfactory dip. I almost slipped and said “product.” Product is what you get when you use the soup mix: familiar, ever dependable, but ultimately boring. Live a little.
Dip making can be just the opportunity to empty your spice rack. Don’t be afraid to pick three or four jars of spices that really deserve a happy end of life. A combination of spices and live ingredients — diced scallions, peppers, chives, garlic, or herbs fresh from your garden — will contribute their own flavors and amplify others.
The odds are, your dip creation today will be unique. Never to be repeated. And certainly not to be forgotten.