Over roughly the past 10 years, both kosher and non-kosher consumers have become obsessed with dips. Why the obsession? For kosher consumers, I believe there are two major factors. One is that the many yeshiva and seminary students who study in Israel are introduced to dips in Israeli/Mediterranean food. The second is due to the health craze. Most dips are vegetarian and work well with healthy snacks such as carrot sticks, cucumber slices and celery sticks. Dips are a fun and integral item that can be enjoyed at all parties and occasions.
As a result of this new reality, several years ago, Pepsi bought the hummus company Sabra, recognizing the gold mine that is inherent in the dip industry. Places like Schwartz’s and, in more recent years, Pomegranate, have trailblazed in this field, bringing many varieties and colors of dips to our Shabbat tables.
Not only are dips a savory treat in which to swipe your challah, they have many other properties as well. Dips can be utilized in many culinary applications. Chimichurri dip or barbecue mayo can be applied to chicken before grilling, as a salad dressing or on a mouthwatering, crispy, chewy steak sandwich. Roasted red pepper dip is great as a crudité dressing. Tapenade is an amazing condiment for a muffaletta sandwich, and pesto dip works great on pasta salad. Dill dip can accompany sweet-and-sour salmon or be applied to salmon before roasting. A thin coating of mayo-based dips can serve as a great barrier, protecting food from intense heat and keeping it extremely moist. This is a trick used by many restaurant and catering chefs.
Related to dips are condiments such as sauces, chutneys, pestos and dressings. In some circumstances, these terms can be interchanged with one another. In Israel, they use the word linagev to mean to dip or swipe (interestingly, the root of this word is negev, which denotes “dry” and is related to wiping or swiping), rotev to mean sauce, and salatim to mean salads or dips. In Spanish, the term salsa is used for most sauces, pestos, chutneys and dips. The word pesto means paste, which I believe is related to pizza, pasta and pita, which are all essentially created from paste. The word salsa is derived from the Latin word sal, which means salt. In other words, sauces are used as a seasoning agent just as salt is a seasoning agent. Interestingly, the word sausage is derived from the word sauce, which is related to salsa or sal because it is preserved with salt and other seasonings. Sodium, which is another name for salt, supposedly is derived from Sodom, the city that turned to salt.
In recent food trends the customers expect choice. When you go to a schnitzel or burger joint, you might enjoy any one or more of close to a dozen toppings and dipping sauces to anoint your sandwich or nuggets. Many folks would rather eat a deep-fried golden schnitzel on a crispy, chewy baguette adorned with fried onions, spicy charif, tangy sauces, the kitchen sink and some healthy vegetables to tame the guilt, rather than some fancier, fussier foods. This combination will create gastronomic happiness.
The following is a chimichurri dip and a skirt steak recipe. Chimichurri is an Argentinian condiment served to garnish grilled steaks and meats. It consists of parsley, wine vinegar, olive oil, garlic, salt and pepper and can be processed with a mortar and pestle, food processor or chopped coarsely with a knife. Variations on this recipe often are made with the addition of cilantro, cumin, cayenne and oregano. This marinade is often associated with the gauchos, who are the ranchers/cowboys in Argentina’s rural and farming areas. Chermoula is chimichurri’s North African cousin, consisting of practically the same ingredients, and is traditionally used as a fish marinade and condiment. In my chimichurri dip recipe I utilize cilantro instead of parsley and lemon juice instead of wine vinegar.
Chimichurri Dip/Skirt Steak
- Chimichurri Dip:
- 1 1/2 cups mayo
- 2 cloves garlic
- 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
- 1/8 teaspoon black pepper
- Either 1 package pre-checked cilantro or 1/2 cup firmly packed cilantro
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- 1/8 teaspoon paprika
- 1/4 teaspoon oregano
Blend all ingredients together with a hand blender or food processor.
Soak 1 pound skirt steak for 30 to 60 minutes (should yield approximately three sandwiches).
Remove from water and pat till bone dry.
Add a liberal amount of black pepper and garlic powder to taste (don’t add salt).
Preheat grill pan or saute pan to medium-high heat.
Add oil of your choice to the pan, and sear for 2 to 2 ½ minutes per side.
Slice skirt steak against the grain.
Place chimichurri dip, desired vegetables and skirt steak on a crispy baguette and serve.
By Naphtali Sobel
Naphtali Sobel is the chef/founder of BABA G dips and is a personal chef and consultant as well. The source of the name BABA G comes from an affectionate name from one of his high school comrades as well as his family’s abridged name for baba ganoush.