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    THE NIBBLE’s Gourmet News & Views

    Trends, Products & Items Of Note In The World Of Specialty Foods

    This is the blog section of THE NIBBLE. Read all of our content on TheNibble.com,
    the online magazine about gourmet and specialty food.

Archive for Spreads & Dips

TIP OF THE DAY: Greek Layered Dip

greek-7-layer-dip-foodnetwork-230

This variation, from Cameron Curtis | The
Food Network
, uses artichoke hearts. Photo
courtesy Food Network.

 

How many times have you had a Mexican layered dip—a.k.a. Seven Layer Bean Dip or Seven Layer Taco Dip—a layering of chopped black olives, diced tomatos, grated Cheddar, guacamole, refried beans, sliced green onions and sour cream, served with tortilla chips?

Sure, it’s popular. But for this year’s Super Bowl, how about a different spin: a seven layer Greek-style dip with pita chips? That’s what we’re making.

Yo don’t need seven layers: You can choose as many or as few layers as you like. The one thing we personally insist on is layering the ingredients in a glass salad bowl, so everyone can enjoy the pretty layers before the chip-dippers get busy.

PICK YOUR SEVEN LAYERS

Spreads/Dips

  • Babaganoush
  • Hummus
  • Tzatziki
  •  
    Dairy

  • Feta cheese, crumbled
  • Plain Greek yogurt
  •  
    Vegetables

  • Artichoke hearts, well drained and chopped
  • Cucumbers, diced and seeded
  • Kalamata olives, chopped
  • Fresh tomatoes, chopped and seeded or sundried tomatoes, chopped
  • Red or yellow bell peppers, small dice
  • Chopped red onions or thinly sliced green onions
  •  
    Plus

  • Optional garnish: fresh dill, mint and/or parsley, snipped
  • Pita chips
  •  

    INDIVIDUAL LAYERED DIPS

    Here’s a simple recipe from Stacy’s Pita Chips. If you don’t have verrines (the small glasses in the photo), clear juice glasses or other appropriate vessels, you can buy plastic rocks cups (9 ounces).

    Ingredients

  • Hummus (you can use flavored hummus for one of the layers)
  • Tzatziki
  • Diced tomatoes (you can substitute red bell pepper when tomatoes are out of season)
  • Toppings: crumbled feta cheese, sliced black olives, minced red onion
  • Garnish: chiffonade of mint, pita chip
  •  
    Preparation

    1. PLACE a layer of hummus at the bottom of the glass, followed by a layer of tzatziki. Repeat.

     

    mini-layer-dip-stacyspitachips-230

    You can make layered dips as individual portions—a fun appetizer idea. Photo courtesy Stacy’s Pita Chips.

     

    2. ADD a layer of diced tomatoes. Top with the feta, olives, onion and mint. Crown with a pita chip.

      

    Comments

    RECIPE: Spreads With Wine

    butternut-goat-cheese-dip-mondavi-230

    Butternut squash spread, served warm. Photo
    courtesy Mondavi.

     

    If your crowd drinks red wine rather than beer during the Super Bowl, here are some dip ideas from Woodbridge by Robert Mondavi. The brand created recipes that go well with its Woodbridge by Robert Mondavi Pinot Noir and Cabernet Sauvignon. For good measure, a tablespoon of wine is added to each of the dips.

    If you’re a Super Bowl guest, offer to make the dip as well as bring the wine.

    RECIPE: ROASTED BUTTERNUT SQUASH & GOAT CHEESE SPREAD

    This dip is served warm.

    Ingredients For 4-6 Appetizer Servings

  • 1 pound butternut squash, cubed
  • 2 large carrots, peeled and chopped into large pieces
  • 3 bulbs garlic, diced
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons pine nuts plus more for garnish
  • 2 tablespoons goat cheese plus more for garnish
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon Pinot Noir
  • Zest of 1/2 lemon
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • Cayenne, to taste
  • Optional: 1 tablespoon fresh chives, finely chopped (we use scissors and snip them)
  • Plus:

  • Crackers and/or bread: baguette slices, ciabatta, pita triangles or other favorite
  •  

    Preparation

    1. PREHEAT the oven to 375°F.

    2. TOSS the first four ingredients in a medium bowl. Spread them out on a baking sheet and bake until the squash is fork tender, about 30 minutes.

    3. PLACE all ingredients in a food processor and pulse until smooth. Taste and adjust seasonings as necessary. (If you’re making the dip a day or more in advance, also taste and adjust when you’re ready to reheat it.)

    4. SPOON the dip into a serving bowl and top with extra pine nuts and goat cheese. Serve warm with the bread/crackers and a glass of Pinot Noir.

    TO MAKE IN ADVANCE: Hold back the goat cheese and pine nuts until you’re ready to reheat and serve. At the 25-minute mark, remove the dip from the oven and the sprinkle goat cheese and pine nuts over the top. Place it back in the oven on BROIL for the remaining 5 minutes to toast the pine nuts and warm the goat cheese.

     

    RECIPE: CARAMELIZED ONION SPREAD

    This dip is served at room temperature.

    Ingredients For 4-6 Appetizer Servings

  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 large onion, sliced into half rings
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon nutmeg
  • ½ teaspoon pepper
  • 1 tablespoon Cabernet Sauvignon
  • 8 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
  • ½ cup sour cream
  • ½ cup plain yogurt
  • 2 tablespoons chives, chopped
  •  
    Preparation

    1. MELT the butter over medium-low heat, then add the onions, salt, pepper and nutmeg. Slowly caramelize the onions by letting them sit for about 3 minutes, then stirring. Do not allow the onions to burn. If the pan gets too dry, add a small amount of water. When the onions are a rich brown color (about 30 minutes)…

     

    butternut-goat-and-caramelized-onion-mondavi-230

    Butternut squash spread, caramelized onion spread and some almond nibbles. Photo courtesy Mondavi. Photo courtesy Mondavi.

     

    2. ADD the Cabernet Sauvignon and cook for another three minutes or until the wine is completely absorbed. Remove the pan from the heat. Reserve 1-2 tablespoons of the caramelized onions for garnish.

    3. ADD the cream cheese, sour cream and yogurt to the bowl of an electric mixer and beat until smooth on medium low speed. Turn the mixer down to the lowest speed and add the onions. Add the seasonings to taste.

    4. GARNISH with the caramelized onions and chives and serve at room temperature.

    TO MAKE IN ADVANCE: Follow steps 1-3. Remove from the refrigerator 30 minutes to bring to room temperature. Garnish and serve.
     
    DIP OR SPREAD: THE DIFFERENCE

    Mondavi calls these recipes dips, but they’re actually spreads. What’s the difference?

    Both dip and spread call it like it is:

  • A spread is thicker and requires a knife to spread it, typically onto bread or crackers. If it requires a a knife, it’s a spread.
  • A dip is thinner and requires no utensil: Simply dip something into it—bread sticks, chips, crudités.
  •  
    Some recipes deliver a consistency between the two, and are dippable or spreadable. But if a chip breaks under the weight of the “dip,” it’s a spread.
      

    Comments

    TOP PICK OF THE WEEK: Blue Isle Mediterranean Yogurt Spread

    Following on the heels of the burgeoning Greek yogurt market, ready-to-eat yogurt dips and spreads are finally raising their hands.

    While some people like to putter over dips and spreads, making their favorite recipe or seeing what new flavors they can add to cream cheese, Greek yogurt or sour cream, others like to grab and something already made. We belong to both groups, depending on how hungry we are at the moment.

    For the latter group, Blue Isle Mediterranean Yogurt Spreads will be welcome. The product’s stated goal is “to raise the bar in the retail cream cheese category with superior flavors, functionality and nutrition.”

    The brand differentiates itself by promoting its healthy probiotics (or “good bacteria”) and their calcium-rich yogurt spreads as “the new cream cheese.”

    It is spreadable, like cream cheese. It’s also dippable.

    Compared to the leading cream cheese (that’s you, Philadelphia), Blue Isle has nearly 40% fewer calories and fat, with only 60 calories and 6g of fat per two-tablespoon serving. Like Philadelphia, it is certified kosher by OU. The company says that Blue Isle contains 180% less sodium per serving than the leading cream cheese. Who knew cream cheese was salty?

    Blue Isle is available in savory and sweet flavors:

  • Blueberry
  • French Onion
  • Honey
  • Original
  • Spicy Vegetable
  •    

    blue-isle-yogurt-spread-stack-230

    The new spread in town, made from probiotic Greek yogurt. Photo courtesy Karoun Dairies.

     

    In its debut year, Blue Isle Original won the 1st Place award from the American Cheese Society in the Labneh, Greek Style Yogurt, and Other Strained Yogurt Products category. It is made by family-owned Karoun Dairies.

     

    blue-isle-yogurt-spread-crudites-230

    While developed as a spread, Blue Isle is easily dippable. Photo courtesy Karoun Dairies.

     

    We enjoyed all of the flavors, alternately spreading them on bagels and using them to dip crudités. The sweet and savory flavors—a opposed to the plain Original—were equally beguiling. We look forward to experimenting with canapés and dessert canapes (using our Stackable Appetizer Maker device, loaf cakes with Honey Blue Isle and raspberry jam were a good start).

    Made from rBST-free California milk, you can:

  • Spread it on bagels, flatbread and toast
  • Blend it into deviled eggs and mashed potatoes
  • Thicken or garnish soup
  • Use it as a sandwich condiment
  •  

    The line is available at better supermarkets and natural food stores nationwide (partial list: Central Market, Fiesta Mart, Fred Meyer, The Fresh Market, Harmon’s, H-E-B, Jon’s Marketplace, Lucky’s, Mollie Stones, New Seasons, QFC, Strack and Van Til).

    The suggested retail price is $3.29 for an 8-ounce tub.

    Discover more at BlueIsleSpread.com.

     

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Bagna Càuda, A “Hot Bath” Dip With Garlic

    Bagna càuda, pronounced BON-ya COW-da, is a riff on crudités with dip. The name means “hot bath”; the dip is olive oil and butter, seasoned with garlic and anchovies and served hot. Bagna caôda is an alternative spelling.

    A dish from Italy’s Piedmont season, bagna càuda is served during the autumn and winter months, often as part of a Christmas Eve buffet. Why not try it on New Year’s Eve?

    Traditional dippers in Piedmont include artichokes, bell peppers, cardoons*, carrots, cauliflower, celery, fennel and green onions.

    In some parts of Piedmont, cream is used instead of butter; and hazelnut or walnut oil is substituted for the olive oil. If you’re in Alba, lucky you: There may be some truffles added to to the oil.

    Here’s the drill:

  • Heat the seasoned oil.
  • Provide slices of baguette to hold underneath the vegetable to catch the drippings and turn into its own snack.
  • To keep the oil warm, you can use a fondue pot with fondue forks for dipping. A flat cheese fondue pot works best, or a chafing dish on a hot plate or a brazier.
  •  

    bagna-cauda-finedininglovers-230r

    This bagna càuda is served in a regular dish, not a fondue pot. Photo courtesy FineDiningLovers.com; here’s their recipe.

     
    RECIPE: BAGNA CÀUDA DIP

    Ingredients

  • 6 large garlic cloves, chopped
  • 3/4 cup olive oil plus oil for browning
  • 6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 6-12 best quality anchovy fillets, well drained
  • 1 tablespoon minced parsley leaves
  • Optional: pinch of chile flakes
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Assorted fresh vegetables, cut into bite-size pieces
  • 1 baguette or similar loaf, sliced into 2-inch pieces
  •  
    Preparation

    1. BROWN the garlic cloves in some olive oil, about 5 minutes. Add the optional chile flakes before removing from the flame.

    2. BLEND the oil, butter, anchovies and garlic in a food processor until smooth. Transfer the dip to a medium saucepan, taste and season as desired.

    3. HEAT over a low flame for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add to fondue pot or dish. Stir in the parsley right before serving.

    4. SERVE with crudités and bread.

     
    *Cardoons are relative of artichokes, and aren’t readily available in the U.S. they resemble celery.

      

    Comments

    PRODUCT: Tribe Harvest Carrot & Ginger Hummus

    Kudos to Tribe Hummus for advancing the enjoyment of this healthful spread and snack. In addition to a hefty standard line-up, the company continues to produce limited edition flavors to please the palate.

    The current limited edition, Limited Batch Herb Infused Olive Oil, is a delight, spiced with sesame seeds and za’atar† (also spelled zahtar), a spice blend that is very popular in Middle Eastern cuisines, including Israeli.

    Then there’s the new Farmers Market line, which currently includes:

  • Cucumber Tzatziki Hummus, with cucumber and dill
  • Harvest Carrot & Ginger Hummus, a favorite combination in winter soups
  • Vine Ripened Tomato & Basil Hummus, a newer version of the brand’s Sundried Tomato & Basil flavor
  •    

    tribe-carrot-ginger-230sq

    Harvest Carrot & Ginger, one of Tribe’s new Farmer’s Market flavors. Photo courtesy Tribe.

     
    *Flavors from the Tribe Originals Line: Classic Hummus, Cracked Chili Peppers, Everything Hummus, Extra Smooth Classic, Forty Spices, Lemon Rosemary Focaccia, Mediterranean Olive, Mediterranean Style, Roasted Garlic, Spicy Chipotle, Spicy Red Pepper, Sweet Roasted Red Peppers, Zesty Spice & Garlic. Classic, Roasted Garlic and Sweet Roasted Red Peppers are also available in organic versions.

    †Za’atar is actually the Arabic word for Lebanese oregano, a member of the mint family Lamiaceaea, that was known in antiquity as hyssop. The za’atar blend will vary by the blender, but includes dried thyme, oregano, marjoram, toasted sesame seeds and salt. Some blends add coriander, cumin, fennel seed or savory. A Palestinian variation includes caraway seeds. To these spices, the unique components of Lebanese oregano and sumac berries are added. The sumac, ground into a reddish-purple powder that is a popular spice in Middle Eastern cuisine, imparts a tart, fruity flavor that differentiates za’atar from other spice blends.

     

    carrot-hummus-plated-kaminsky-230

    Tribe’s Harvest Carrot & Ginger Hummus. Photo by Hannah Kaminsky | THE NIBBLE.

     

    The Harvest Carrot & Ginger Hummus, in particular, has a festive orange hue that looks especially nice for holiday snacking. Served with a platter of crudités, it’s a better-for-you option among the rich holiday fare.

    The orange color also fits right in with Halloween and the entire harvest season.

    If you’d like to make your own, here’s a reicpe:

    RECIPE: CARROT GINGER HUMMUS

    Prep time is 5 minutes, cook time is 5 minutes.
     
    Ingredients

  • 1 cup well-packed shredded carrots
  • 1 15-ounce can chickpeas, drained
  • 1/2 cup lemon juice (about two lemons)
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/4 cup tahini
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 tablespoon grated ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin
  • Garnish: snipped cilantro or parsley
  • Dippers: pita chips, baby carrots and other crudités
  • Preparation

    1. PLACE all ingredients in a food processor and pulse several times to coarsely chop. Then let food processor run for about 2 minutes until smooth.

    2. REMOVE hummus from food processor bowl to serving bowl, using a spatula. Serve with dippers of choice.

     
    CARROT TRIVIA

    Contrary to popular belief, baby carrots are not grown bite-sized. They are bred long and slender, and then cut into two-inch pieces and lathed to a uniform width.

    According to Web MD, carrots do, in fact, help with vision. They are high in vitamin A, a nutrient essential for good vision. Eating carrots provides the small amount of vitamin A needed for good vision. (Vitamin A is also be found in cheese, egg yolks, liver and milk.

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Easy Peanut Dipping Sauce

    summer-rolls-peanut-butter-sauce-lizziemabbot-ILPB-230r

    A three-ingredient peanut sauce. Photo
    courtesy Lizzie Mabbot | Lizzy Eats London.

     

    If you’re a fan of peanut sauce for dipping, making sesame noodles or drizzling over steamed vegetables, and diluted with salad oil for a salad dressing.

    While the preparation is simple—just combine the ingredients in a bowl and blend—depending on the recipe, you can spend more time or less time measuring ingredients.

    We discovered this super easy recipe version on ILovePeanutButter.com, contributed by blogger Lizzie Mabbot of Lizzy Eats London. She serves it with homemade summer rolls.

    RECIPE: EASY PEANUT SAUCE

    Ingredients

  • 3 tablespoons hoisin sauce
  • ¼ cup crunchy peanut butter
  • 2 tablespoons rice vinegar
  •  
    Preparation

    1. COMBINE the ingredients with a whisk. If sauce is too thick, add a little water.

     

     

    RECIPE: STANDARD PEANUT SAUCE

    This recipe, from McCormick, has more layers of flavor and takes a few more minutes to prepare—plus fish sauce and sesame oil, which you may not have on hand. McCormick uses it in their sesame noodles recipe.

    Ingredients

  • 1/3 cup crunchy peanut butter
  • 1/3 cup chicken stock
  • 3 tablespoons dry sherry
  • 2 tablespoons chives, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons fish sauce
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 tablespoon sesame oil
  •  

    sesame-noodles-mccormick-230sq

    Seasame noodles with peanut sauce. Photo courtesy McCormick.

     

    Preparation

    1. PLACE all ingredients in a food processor. Cover and process until smooth.

      

    Comments

    TIP: 13 Ways To Use Spinach Dip Or Spread

    spinach-mascarpone-dip-vermontcreamery-230

    What do you like to do with spinach dip?
    Photo courtesy Vermont Creamery.

     

    Many people enjoy spinach dip; they just don’t enjoy it often enough.

    Recipes vary greatly (here’s a super-rich spinach-mascarpone dip). Zabar’s, the famed food emporium in New York City, is known for its vegan spinach-arugula spread, a garlicky spinach dip variation with peppery arugula punch, made with Tofutti instead of a dairy product. The ingredients are spinach, arugula, Tofutti, pesto, caramelized onions, roasted garlic, salt and pepper.

    Zabar’s chefs recommend it to liven up favorite comfort foods, weeknight dinners and entertaining staples. You can use your favorite spinach dip variation, based on using cream cheese, sour cream, Greek yogurt or a combination.

    Then, use it in any of these 13 ways:

    1. Stir spinach dip into macaroni and cheese for extra color and flavor.

    2. Spread it onto split French or Italian bread loaves, cover with minced garlic mixed with a little olive oil and broil, for a twist on garlic bread.

    3. Mix with boiled halved or quartered potatoes and scallions for zesty potato salad.

     

    4. Use instead of mayo on a BLT or other sandwich.

    5. Use instead of mayo in chicken, egg, tuna, salmon or pasta salad for pumped-up flavor.

    6. Mix into mashed potatoes.

     

    7. Spread on sliced, toasted bread or crostini and serve as appetizers or with a salad.

    8. Spread on crostini, cover with Gruyère or other melting cheese and broil\; then float the crostini in your favorite soup.

    9. Use instead of cream cheese on a bagel with lox.

    10. Fill an omelet.

    11. Mix with low-fat plain Greek yogurt for a healthy crudité or chip dip.

    12. Mix with ricotta for a lasagna filling.

    13. Add to a baked potato instead of butter or sour cream.
     
    Would you like to add a tip or two to this list? Let us know.

     

    spinach-arugula-spread-zabars--230

    Spinach dip spread on crostini. Photo courtesy Zabars.com.

     

      

    Comments

    PRODUCT: Shelf Stable Pacific Organic Hummus

    Way back in 2006, we received samples of shelf-stable hummus in jars. From a brother and sister-led company called Salt & Vinegar, we felt the manufacturers had nailed a need in the rapidly growing hummus market: hummus that didn’t require refrigeration.

    The fledgling company didn’t make it; and since then, the hummus category has exploded even more. You can find hummus in dozens of flavors, mixed with other Middle Eastern specialties like babaganoush, tabouleh and yogurt.

    The only thing missing: shelf-stable hummus. Hummus that you can keep in your locker or desk drawer, in your glove compartment, in your gym bag, for a protein-packed, better-for-you snack or light lunch.

    Pacific Foods has risen to meet the need, with three flavorful varieties of shelf stable—Classic, Roasted Garlic and Roasted Red Pepper. They are made from the highest quality organic ingredients, including chickpeas, lemon juice, tahini, a touch of garlic and a pinch of sea salt.

    How does shelf stable hummus compare to refrigerated or freshly made hummus?

       

    pacific-organic-hummus-trio-230r

    Two of the three flavors of shelf-stable hummus (no refrigeration required). Photo courtesy Pacific Foods.

     

    pacific-hummus-bowl-230

    No refrigerator required. Photo courtesy
    Pacific Foods.

     

    In our own office test, our favorite refrigerated varieties (including Tribe) won out, but Pacific was deemed more than worthy, with bonus points for convenience.

    And according to the manufacturer, Pacific’s Classic Hummus has “one-third fewer calories and 40% less fat than the refrigerated hummus category leader.”

    Look for them where you’d find the shelf stable salsas, in the chip aisle. They’re rolling out at Whole Foods Markets, and at other stores that carry the Pacific brand of organic products.

    Priced at $3.39 to $4.29 (based on the individual retailer)per 12.75-ounce container, these convenient little boxes are begging to accompany you wherever you go.

    Don’t forget a plastic spoon plus optional chips and veggies.

     

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Caramelized Onion Dip

    We grew up making Lipton’s California Dip: a package of Lipton Onion Soup Mix combined with a pint of sour cream. It was simple and soul-satisfying, a party standard with potato chips and pretzels (and later, crudités, pita chips and other chips).

    The recipe appeared in 1954, two years after the Lipton soup mix hit the market. The recipe “spread through Los Angeles faster than a canyon fire.” (Source: American Century Cook Book, Jean Anderson [Clarkson Potter:New York] 1997,p. 24.)

    Newspapers printed the recipe and onion soup mix sales soared. Beginning in 1958, Lipton printed the recipe on every box of the soup mix.

    As with the creator of German Chocolate Cake, a recipe that spread like wildfire throughout Texas, the identity of the original recipe developer has never been established. So if your grandmother or great-grandmother lived in L.A. in 1954 and claimed to have invented Lipton California Dip, it could be so.

    Over the years, from-scratch onion dip recipes have taken turns with chives, leeks and scallions. Caramelized onions also have their fans.

       

    heluva-good-dip-beauty-kalviste-230

    Chips and caramelized onion dip. Photo by Elvira Kalviste | THE NIBBLE.

     

    In fact, this summer, you can pick up Heluva Good! Limited Edition Roasted Garlic & Caramelized Onion Dip. Caramelized onions have more sophisticated flavor than the dried onion chips in the Lipton mix, from the sweetness of the caramelized onions and the roasted garlic layered in.

    Heluva Good is a specialty producer of sour cream and sour cream-based dips. Find out more, and see the other dip flavors, at HeluvaGood.com.

    You also can make your own caramelized onion dip. The recipe below takes just 10 minutes, plus chilling time.

     

    caramelized-onions-pompeianFB-230

    Caramelized onions are delicious with any
    savory foods. Photo courtesy Pompeian | FB.

     

    RECIPE: CARAMELIZED ONION DIP

    Ingredients For 2 Cups

  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 2 cups thinly sliced onion
  • 2 teaspoons chopped fresh sage leaves
  • 3/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 3/4 cup sour cream
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • Chips, crudités, pretzels or other dippers
  •  

    Preparation

    1. HEAT oil in medium saucepan or frying pan over medium-low heat. Add the onions and sage. Cover and cook until onions are deep golden brown, about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat and let cool.

    2. WHISK together mayonnaise and sour cream in a medium bowl to blend. Stir in the cooled caramelized onions, salt, and pepper. Cover and refrigerate until flavors blend, about 2 hours.

     

    MORE WAYS TO USE CARAMELIZED ONIONS

    We consume them as quickly as we make them!

    Often, we eat them right from the pan or as they’re cooling. But check out these uses for caramelized onions.

      

    Comments

    RECIPE: Apricot Cilantro Salsa

    Seasonal apricot salsa brightens grilled
    chicken or fish. Photo courtesy Landana
    Cheese.

     

    Salsa is simply the generic word for “sauce.” Many centuries before tortilla chips were invented, Aztecs and other Mesoamericans ground ingredients into sauces for meat and fish.

    This salsa recipe was developed as a sauce for chicken or fish, as opposed to a dip for tortilla chips. It comes from Landana Cheese, a Dutch producer specializing in Gouda-style cheeses—hence the unusual addition of cheese. You can omit the cheese, and the salsa is just as good.

    RECIPE: APRICOT CILANTRO SALSA FOR FISH & POULTRY

    Ingredients

  • 5.3 ounces (150g) Gouda-style cheese, shaved (Landana used their 1000 Days aged Gouda)
  • 8 ripe apricots, halved and pitted
  • 6 cilantro sprigs
  • 1 teaspoon lime juice
  • 1 teaspoon grated lime zest
  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika
  •  

    Preparation

    1. CUT the apricots into a small dice. Remove the leaves of cilantro from the stems and mince them. Juice the lime and grate the zest.

    2. COMBINE the apricots, cilantro, lime juice and zest and paprika and allow the flavors to blend for a half hour or longer. Shave flakes from the cheese and divide them over appetizer spoons or appetizer dishes. Then divide the apricot-coriander salsa over the cheese.

     

    IT’S APRICOT SEASON

    Fresh, ripe, California apricots are have a short peak season, and that season is now.

    Some 95% of the apricots grown in the U.S. come from California. More than 400 growers produce apricots from 21,000 acres of orchards in the San Joaquin Valley in central California, and in the northern part around San Francisco.

    Numerous apricot varieties grow in California, each with special characteristics. The most prevalent varieties are the Blenheims, Castlebrites, Pattersons and Tiltons. Growers continually experiment with new varieties that deliver sweeter, juicier flavor and/or process or ship with more longevity. Fruits are bred to do better in specific soils and microclimates.

    Apricots originated China. Cuttings were brought by caravan across the Persian Empire and planted in the Mediterranean, where they flourished.

    Spanish explorers get credit for introducing the apricot to the New World, and specifically to California, where they were planted in the gardens of Spanish missions. The first major production of apricots was recorded in 1792, in an area south of San Francisco.

     

    FrogHollow-apricots-230

    Organic apricots from Northern California’s Frog Hollow Farm.

     

    HOW TO FREEZE APRICOTS

    If you end up with a wealth of apricots, they can be frozen in sugar syrup, to be defrosted and enjoyed in the cold months when you need a bit of sunshine.

    1. COMBINE 2 cups sugar and 5 cups water. Add 2 ounces ascorbic acid for each 2-1/2 cups syrup.

    2. PLUNGE cleaned whole apricots into boiling water for about thirty seconds. Then peel, pit and halve or slice; place in the sugar syrup and freeze.

    3. DEFROST slowly in the fridge (the best way to retain flavor when defrosting just about anything).

      

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