Friday, July 8, 2011

It's July! Take a Dip or Make a Dip Using Grilled Red Peppers; Two Simple Recipes For Great Outdoor Entertaining

Over the July 4th weekend we were staying out in my sister and brother-in-law's home in Westhampton, N.Y. Of course our thoughts turned to eating and I came prepared with a couple of recipes to try out for a large group. I had lots of help. My three sisters and neices were conscripted to shop, chop, roast, and pulse...and of course eat!

I had saved two grilled red pepper dips from some of my old magazines. Curiously enough, there was another in the most recent issue of Real Simple. Red peppers are a popular item in the summer probably due to their accessibility, cheapness and 'fantastical' sweet taste. These are middle-eastern in nature and a change-up from dips that I usually make using sour cream or cream cheese.

We made the two dips, each one taking bout 15 minutes to prepare, not counting the grilling time. One was red peppers and white bean dip, the other red peppers and walnuts. In an informal survey, the first dip noted here was more popular though I might have messed up the white bean dip by not draining the canned beans enough and so I will give that recipe a second chance later this summer.

Red peppers are extremely high in vitamin C and contain excellent amounts of vitamin A and beta carotene which helps the immune and reproductive systems to function properly. Vitamin C protects cells and tissues and helps to prevent cancer. The peppers are also a good source of niacin (vitamin B3) which helps to lower cholesterol levels and regulates blood sugar. B3 also helps the body to process fats. Vitamin A in red peppers can help with eye health and viral infections.

And the best part: one cup of red peppers contains only 46 calories!

Anyway, these are so simple and you can grill the red peppers in advance or roast if your fire is available while preparing the dips. The skin peels off easily using a small amount of olive oil. The rest of the steps involve a little chopping and a food processor. You won't be disappointed.

Grilled Red Peppers and Walnut Dip
Make this dip a day ahead to let the flavors blend. 
Serves 10 to 12. 

3 red bell peppers (about 1 pound)
One 6-inch pita bread (2 ounces)
1 cup water
1 small garlic clove
4 ounces walnut pieces (about 3/4 cup), toasted, plus more for garnish
1 1/2 teaspoons paprika, plus more for garnish (optional)
3/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
3/4 teaspoon coarse salt
Freshly ground black pepper

  • Roast peppers over grill until blackened all over, turning with tongs as each side is blistered or place under a broiler. Transfer to a bowl covered with plastic wrap and let stand for about 15 minutes. Peel, and discard skins, stems, and seeds. Set peppers aside.
  • Toast pita bread until crisp and golden. Break into 2-inch pieces; place in a bowl, and cover with the water. Soak until soft, about 10 minutes. Drain well, pressing out excess water. Set aside.
  • Combine garlic and walnut pieces in the bowl of a food processor; process until fine crumbs form, about 10 seconds. Add paprika, cumin, and reserved peppers and pita bread; process until smooth. Add vinegar, lemon juice, oil, and salt, and season with black pepper. Process until combined.
  • Transfer to a serving bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Refrigerate at least 1 hour or overnight. Before serving, bring to room temperature. Drizzle with oil; sprinkle with walnuts to garnish
  • Serve with toasted pita chips.
White Beans and Grilled Red Pepper Dip
Serves 8

1 (15 ounce) can cannellini, beans-drained and rinsed (I think I didn't drain enough and the dip got watery as it set. BE SURE TO REALLY DRY THE BEANS)
1/2 cup chopped roasted red pepper
1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil or 3/4 tsp cumin for a different variation
1/4 teaspoon paprika
2 garlic cloves
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar


  • Place the drained beans, red peppers, salt, basil (or cumin), paprika, garlic cloves, olive oil, and vinegar in a food processor. Pulse until smooth.
  • Serve with pita chips. 

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