Dips and spreads never go out of style, and are always welcome for large gatherings like holiday parties because most of them can be made ahead, are not outrageously expensive, and appeal to everyone. You can feed a lot of people with one bowl of a delicious dip, or a spread for pieces of toasted baguettes or crackers. The recipes in this book go far beyond sour cream and a package of dry onion soup mix. Most restaurants now offer more than the usual pats of butter for bread, or plain olive oil for dipping. I was at a restaurant recently that offered various flavors of hummus, spicy cheese spreads, and a variety of chopped olives with their crispy flatbreads. It was heavenly!
The book starts with everyday favorites like a basic pesto dip, olive tapenade, feta spread, and salsa. Party fare and casual entertaining includes melted brie, bean dips and spreads, and chutneys. For special occasions there is smoked trout and horseradish, potted shrimp, goat cheese and caviar, or a wine-drenched Coeur a la Creme. I love the “Better than Butter” section with a roasted shallot and caper butter; ginger yam and sweet potato spread; curried squash spread; and a spinach, watercress, and parsley mayonnaise. For those who would like low-fat and nonfat ideas, try a Moroccan carrot spread; mango chicken spread; tofu yogurt dip; or a topper of green lentils and onions. The ethnic flavors include chipotle chile pesto; Thai peanut dip; curried red lentil dip; or Indian raita dip. Along with all these delectable spreads and dips, there needs to be something to dunk with, slather onto, or pile on top of. You can use bagel chips, biscotti, focaccia, baguettes, biscuits, fruits, rice cakes, wasabi chips, flatbreads, pretzels, pita, and veggies. The recipes in the book all sound great, and far beyond what used to be offered at college frat parties, which was a can of rotel tomatoes heated with a can of cheese soup. Although, from what I understand, that is still very popular. Hopefully the frat boys have grown up and at least add some fresh cilantro!