When I moved to the U.S., I was amazed at the prevalence of dips, especially quite substantial ones. (In the U.K., they are always quite liquid.) One of the things I really like about American parties at home are the wonderful, big bowls of dips friends bring over for gatherings both large and small, whether or not they’ve been asked to bring food.
In New York or San Francisco, it was perfectly normal for a girlfriend to rock up to my front door for a TV party with a snazzy, multilayered dip—almost a meal in itself, and made according to a honed family recipe.
There certainly isn’t a U.K. equivalent of this particularly U.S. tradition, and you won’t find them in very many British cookbooks. They just aren’t taken that seriously here; most often, they lurk in tiny plastic pots in the chiller section of the supermarket.
The first thing to acknowledge about the whole dippage thing is that they are very rarely bursting with goodness—unless your view of goodness is all about sour cream, cheese, and a zillion calories, in which case you're lucky.
The second is that dips aren’t just something delicious whizzed up in the food processor in seconds (although that kind, like my butter bean and thyme dip, are excellent, too): They are layered; they are often baked, like my artichoke and spinach dip; and they are all sorts of yummy.
This butternut squash purée is one of those dishes that requires so little effort on the part of the cook, yet looks wonderful—perfect as a dip before supper starts. It would also be a great addition to a mezze.
I’ve discovered that it is also a crafty way to serve squash to the naysayers: There’s something about the addition of the creamy cheese and the seeds that makes it look a whole lot more appealing than your average bowl of orange mush.
It has just three processes: the steaming of the squash, the puréeing, and the whipping of the cheese. What could be easier? (You do need a food processor for this dish.)
The purée is delicious served either hot or cold.
SECRET: Pumpkin oil is perfect for the garnish, but it’s not always easy—or cheap—to find, so you can replace it with any oil with a distinct flavor. I like walnut or hazelnut, but a lovely, grassy Greek olive oil would be delicious here, too.
NOTE: Makes 1 large bowl
1 butternut squash
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
125 grams ricotta cheese
1 tablespoon pumpkin seeds and
Pumpkin oil (or other oil with distinct flavor), to garnish
Roughly chop the squash into small chunks, removing the seeds, and steam over a pan of boiling water for approximately 20 minutes.
When soft, scoop the flesh away from the skin into a food processor bowl and pulse with a drizzle of olive oil and a pinch of salt, until a purée forms.
Tip the ricotta into a bowl; add a pinch of salt and a grind of black pepper. Whip together briefly with a fork.
To serve, spoon the purée into a flattish bowl and carefully spoon the cheese into the middle, flattening it with the back of the spoon. Sprinkle over the seeds and drizzle over some oil.
For more recipes like this one, pick up a copy of Wilkins's book below.
What are your favorite dishes to make in the fall?