click to enlarge Good-for-you dips
Photo by Ashley Meyer
Spicy red lentil hummus

Whether you're looking for that perfect game-day recipe or dish to take to a harvest cookout, hearty dips are a party essential that deliver lots of flavor with relatively little effort or expense. Hot or cold, creamy or spicy – there's a dip for every taste and diet. 

Some of the best preparations don't even require a recipe, such as this preparation that we served when I was working for a catering company up in Chicago years ago. Good quality jarred marinara sauce was poured into a lightly greased casserole dish then topped with coins of fresh goat cheese and a sprinkle of Parmesan. Baked until golden and bubbly and served with a basket of warm garlic bread, it was an easy and satisfying recipe that I still make today. 

While it's true that most party dips are delightfully cheesy calorie bombs, there are some gorgeous and tasty recipes that are full of good-for-you ingredients and fresh vibrant flavors. Even the most committed carnivores have been known to devour this smoky red lentil hummus and zesty pineapple salsa, especially when served with freshly fried tostones. 

Pineapple Black Bean Salsa with Tostones

½ fresh pineapple, trimmed, cored and cut into 1/4-inch dice
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 red bell pepper, cut into ¼-inch dice
1 jalapeno, minced (optional)
½ red onion, minced
1 clove garlic
Juice of one lime
1 bunch cilantro
Salt to taste

Combine the above ingredients and mix well. Season to taste with salt. Refrigerate until ready to serve. Serve with tostones (fried plantains) or tortilla chips 

For the tostones:
2 green plantains
Vegetable oil for frying
Salt

Peel the plantain by using a paring knife to cut off both tips of the plantain before making four lengthwise slits in the peel, cutting just as deep as the peel is thick. Remove the peel in sections, then use a knife to remove any remaining peel from the flesh of the plantain. Cut the peeled plantains into diagonal slices approximately three-fourths of an inch thick. 

Heat an inch of oil in a wide heavy-bottomed pot to 325 degrees. Fry the slices of plantain until tender, flipping once, about four minutes. Remove the plantains from the oil and place on paper towels to cool and come to room temperature. When cool, place fried plantain slices in between sheets of wax paper and use a skillet to flatten/smash. Repeat with remaining slices. 

Heat the oil to 375 degrees. Fry the plantains, flipping once, until browned and crispy, about two minutes. Sprinkle with salt and serve warm. 

Spicy Red Lentil Hummus

1 cup red lentils
¼ cup tahini
¼ cup olive oil
Juice of one lemon
1-2 garlic cloves
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
½ teaspoon cumin
1-2 tablespoons harissa (Tunisian red chili paste – omit if you don't like spice)
Additional olive oil and chopped parsley to garnish.

Rinse the lentils then place them in a saucepan with enough water to cover the lentils by an inch. Bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce heat to a simmer and cook for 30 minutes, until lentils are soft and slightly mushy. Sprinkle the lentils with salt and a squeeze of lemon, then spread them out on a plate or small tray to cool to room temperature. 

Combine the cooled lentils and the remaining ingredients in a food processor and process until smooth. Serve drizzled with additional olive oil and chopped herbs. 

Caramelized onion, blue cheese and bacon dip

3 slices bacon
1 pound yellow onions, minced (use a food processor if you have one)
¼ cup dry sherry (optional)
½ teaspoon dried thyme
1 ½ cups (12 ounces) sour cream or Greek yogurt
½ cup (4 ounces) mayonnaise
1 teaspoon granulated onion
½ teaspoon garlic powder
2 tablespoons minced chives
1 teaspoon sherry vinegar
¼ teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon anchovy paste
4 ounces crumbled blue cheese

Fry the bacon in a wide skillet over medium high heat. Remove when crisp and set aside on a paper towel to drain. Add the chopped onions to the hot fat in the skillet and cook over medium-high heat for about two minutes until they start to brown lightly. Add the sherry to deglaze the pan (you can also use water or dry wine), scraping up all the brown bits that had stuck to the bottom of the pan. Reduce the heat to low and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions are a deep golden brown, about 45 minutes. Transfer the onions to a mixing bowl and cool to room temperature. Once cool, add the remaining ingredients and mix well. Taste for seasoning and refrigerate until ready to serve. Finely chop the bacon and sprinkle it over the dip just before serving. Delicious with freshly fried kettle chips and cut vegetables. 

Artichoke dip

This gem of a recipe originated from a spiral-bound cookbook published by the Junior League of Rockford in 1984. A few tweaks have been made over the years – my grandmother added the rosemary and I'm responsible for the addition of chili flakes. Don't be tempted to swap out a higher fat cheese (such as cheddar) for the mozzarella – the resulting dish will be too greasy.

1 cup mayonnaise
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
2 cups shredded low-fat mozzarella cheese
2 14-ounce cans artichoke hearts, drained and chopped
1 heaping teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary
Red chili flakes to taste (optional)
Paprika

Combine the above ingredients except the paprika in a bowl and mix well. Transfer to a buttered two-quart baking dish and lightly sprinkle paprika over the top. Bake in a preheated 375-degree oven for 20-25 minutes. Serve warm. 

About The Author

Ashley Meyer

Ashley Meyer has been cooking as long as she has been walking. The daughter of beloved former Illinois Times food columnist, Julianne Glatz, Ashley offers a fresh, inspired take on her mother’s culinary legacy. Ashley studied winemaking at Lincoln University in Christchurch, New Zealand and recently achieved the...

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