Friday, January 25, 2013

Herbs & Spices Veggie Dip

Here's a quick post for a snowy Friday afternoon:  a easy to make and healthy snack.

It's a vegetable dip to love:  no funky ingredients whose names you can't pronounce.  No monosodium glutamate (MSG).  Nothing that resembles an E-code.  Nothing that reminds you of a bad day in your high school Chemistry class.  Just pure, simple, fresh ingredients coupled with a few simple dried ones, and you have a veggie dip to make the guests at your next party sing a little.  Or maybe you'll break out a tune all by yourself, at the kitchen table, staring out the window into the sunshine, like I did.  What's not to love?

I love a good creamy dip.  I have purchased my share of dips over the years - both pre-made and the ones where you buy a packet of dried seasoning and mix it into a mound of yogurt or sour cream.  While often tasty, they also typically had a few dubious ingredients that nowadays I am trying to avoid whenever possible.

You'll be surprised (or maybe not if you are already reading labels), how much weird stuff goes into our foods; the funny places where large quantities of sugar or corn syrup show up (hello Heinz ketchup, I am talking about you); and the seriously crazy amount of E-codes that usually hold down the last few places in the ingredients list (some codes are INS codes and used in the US and other countries for colors, emulsifiers, stabilizers and preservatives added to food).  Do you even know what that stuff is?  I have been trying to figure it out.  Stefan Gates of BBC wrote a couple of years ago about the fact that not all E-codes are bad for you.  I believe that.  But I also believe the evidence that demonstrates problems with certain E-codes in foods, particularly for those with allergies who likely have no idea what it is that a particular E-code represents.

All I can say until I am more educated on the subject is that the more often I use ingredients whose every component I recognize, the more happy I am about eating the food that results from my efforts.  It's a bonus if I can pronounce the names of the ingredients I am cooking with as well - it took me a while with some of them like "jicama" which I pronounced firmly with a "J" like "Jake" instead of an "h" like "hello!".  Who knew?  And then the Brits use "aubergine" for "eggplant", and make it even more fun by pronouncing the "g" the way one pronounces the "g" in "regime" so that it's "ah-bear-ʒiːm", and actually sounds quite elegant, just the way eggplant can be when added to a dish that's properly made, as it was in the vegetarian moussaka I had for lunch yesterday at Kellohalli in Teurastamo.

Kellohalli's Vegetarian Moussaka
View from my table at Kellohalli
Speaking of which: If you live in Helsinki and haven't been to Kellohalli yet, jump on the metro and exit at Kalasatama.  Check out the map on the link above, and enjoy the short walk from the metro to the restaurant, or drive there, if you insist!  It's a great big open space in the old meat factory, soon to be joined by other great restaurants, a food school, and already neighbors to the Pasta Factory, Helsinki's own fresh-made pasta company.  Nope, they didn't pay me to say this - I just think it's a really cool place for a weekend brunch, a weekday lunch (anybody tried to find good food in Vallila lately?  It's a rough search, and mostly fruitless.) I haven't tried their dinners yet, but the menu looks promising and it's on my to-do list.  

Ok.  Ahem.  After that long diversion, back to the Veggie Dip.  Here it is, folks.  Enjoy!

Herbs & Spices Veggie Dip

2 cups / 4 dl Greek Yogurt or Turkish Yogurt (I aim for 2% - 3.5% milk fat to keep it lean)
1 large garlic clove, chopped fine
2 green onions (kevätsipuli), chopped fine
1/2 cup / 1 dl Thai basil, roughly chopped (substitute other basil if you can't find Thai)
1 heaping tablespoon chopped dill
1 to 1 1/2 teaspoons chili powder (taste after one teaspoon is added)
1 1/2 teaspoons smoked paprika
1 1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper

Mix all ingredients together in a small bowl.  Chill in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes to allow flavors to blend.  Stir briefly once more before serving.

Serve with a big tray of mixed, cut vegetables.  Cauliflower, carrots, cucumber, red pepper, lightly steamed broccoli and cherry tomatoes are all great choices for this.  It would also be great with pita chips or as a spread on a sandwich.


Makes roughly 2 1/2 cups / 5 dl


  1. The presence of such delectable dips inspires me eat veggies. By the way, I share the same experience of having a hard time pronouncing the name of food, dips or ingredients whenever I visit a new restaurant. Anyway, all that matters in the end is the food's taste and nutritional value and not how you pronounce it, right?

    1. That's right, Alex - and if there's a little entertainment along the way via mispronunciation - it's a bonus. :)

  2. I think what matters most is the love that goes into the food, and whether it is organic or not.

    Organic beats out conventional when it comes to flavor and nutrition!

    Ann does it come out the same if you use regular paprika as opposed to smoked paprika or should I use something else to supplement it?

    1. Andrea - I agree! I haven't tried it with regular paprika, but I imagine it would be awesome that way too. Just wouldn't have the smoky flavor in the background. Enjoy it!