Herb Dip with Feta and Greek Yogurt

March 8, 2010

 

Categories:
Appetizers, Basics, Fall, Local Eating, Lunch, Recipes, Sandwiches, Seasons, Side Dishes, Spring, Summer, Winter


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Our parsley has become a rather intimidating shrub. I go out to the garden every day and trim it back, but its leaves only seem to multiply, bushier by the day. Before this year, I had only ever seen parsley in little diminutive stems, often contained by tiny terra cotta pots. I felt bad plucking anything off of my first parsley plant: every torn leaf seemed to take away major life force. The way it might feel to lose an arm.

But the garden at the school where I teach has changed all of that. And it’s not just parsley that is growing like delicious kudzu: it’s basil, dill, cilantro, mint and rosemary. I am embarrassed to admit to my former ignorance here, but herbs are not limited to being tiny sprouts—they can be vegetation at its most expansive.

herbs

This herbal bounty is something I have never enjoyed. In fact, I’ve always sort of detested fresh herbs, if only because a bunch can cost upwards of $5 to enhance a single dish before slipping into the darkest corner of my crisper, only to be found black and mushy months later. I wonder how many dollars have rotted in my refrigerator in the form of un-tapped flavor. Those were the herbs that I cursed.

What I really should have regretted was my dependence on the grocery store. But thanks be to the parsley shrub, I have been set free. Herbs growing in this quantity never go bad because they are always content: sucking water, swaying in the breeze, happily rooted and alive. Now that I have them, I never cook without them. I even keep bunches on my dashboard to keep the car smelling good. Try that with an overpriced basil leaf.

scallions

I feel wealthy, really. Sort of spoiled. But I have vastly changed my view of planting: I’ll never have a garden without rows of my favorites: basil, parsley, oregano, thyme and dill. I will plant them like lettuce. I realize that someday I may not be lucky enough to have herbs growing so abundantly in March, in which case, I’ll be sure to build an extra bed so that my summer crop can be dried and hoarded through a more traditional winter.

So what do I do with so many herbs to spare? Aside from making everything with meunière sauce, I like to make dips. Pesto is an obvious choice, but some parsley butter can be just as satisfying—especially when spread on a homegrown radish. I was recently inspired by Melissa Clark’s Greek Goddess dip, a spin off the more typical Green Goddess dip. She made it in anticipation of the Super bowl, which was easily accommodated by my Texas garden. That said, if I ever live on the east coast again, I won’t be making this much before June.

If you can’t wait for the season, or simply don’t have the requisite herbs growing nearby, make enough of this dip to use up whatever fresh herbs you buy: it’s really extraordinary stuff and  will practically guarantee that those extra basil leaves don’t rot forgotten.

myradishes

Herb Dip with Feta and Greek Yogurt

Adapted from Melissa Clark, Serves 6-8

½ cup packed fresh dill
½ cup packed fresh mint
½ cup packed fresh parsley
½ cup packed fresh basil
2 garlic cloves, chopped
2 scallions, white and green parts, sliced
1 ½ tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
½ cup extra virgin olive oil
½ cup crumbled feta cheese
½ cup Greek yogurt (preferably 2%)
1/4 c cream cheese, optional
Salt and pepper to taste

Raw chopped vegetables (radishes!) or pita chips, for serving.

Place herbs, garlic, scallions, lemon juice and a pinch of salt in a food processor, pulsing until finely chopped.

With food processor on low, drizzle in olive oil until blended. Add feta and pulse until smooth. Add cream cheese (if using), and pulse until smooth. Finally, pulse in yogurt. Add salt, pepper and lemon juice according to your taste.

Serve dip cold with vegetables or pita chips. This dip can be stored in the refrigerator for a few days—it also goes well on a toasted onion bagel for lunch.

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