There is no Italian word for ‘dip’. Italians refer to dips as i dips or in the singular il dip (which shows you just how much the English language is used in Italy). Maybe you could say they are a type of salsa (sauce) or a variation on a pesto (from the italian verb pestare meaning to bash), however there is no getting around the fact that they are a soft mixture of crushed delicious ingredients that you can ‘dip’ bread or grissini or sticks of vegetables into. Now that we have got past the language side of things, I want to share with you my love of i dips and encourage you to make them yourself rather than buying the salty ones full of preservatives and unnatural colours you get from the supermarket.
Most dips are so easy to make at home. There is no need to buy them ready made except for an extreme emergency (and there are some rather nice healthy ones around, though generally not in a supermarket!). And most of them take about 5 minutes to make as everything is put together in a blender or food processor. And you can be creative – as long as you have some unsalted nuts, and some herbs or vegetables in the house, you can probably make a dip. I love dips that have nuts as a base – they give the dip a great texture. This recipe uses roasted bell peppers (capsicums) so it takes a bit longer if you are roasting them yourself, but after that, it is a matter of using a stick blender. For this dip I used almonds, garlic, parsley, lemon zest and a good pinch of chilli so it was tasty, tangy and a bit spicy. A perfect combination of flavours. And it is vegan (in case that matters to you!).
I ate it with some taralli to accompany a glass of wine before dinner but can be served so many ways – on some crusty fresh bread, in a sandwich, as a dip for tiny meatballs or even on pasta. So maybe it can be a bit like a pesto!
Roast pepper dip
2 red (or yellow or orange) medium sized peppers
1/2 cup roasted almonds
1/4 cup parsley
Zest of one lemon
1 tsp coriander powder
1 clove garlic
good pinch of chilli flakes
A good splash of olive oil
Heat the oven to 180 degrees and place the peppers (capsicum) on an oven tray and rub a bit of olive oil on them. Roast for around 40 minutes until soft, turning them over every 7 to 10 minutes to make sure they don’t burn. They are ready when the skin is charred and the flesh is soft. Carefully remove them form the oven, piece them to remove the liquid inside an place in a plastic bag for a few moments to allow the pepper to sweat and the skin to flake off. Take the peppers out of the bag, remove the skin, stalk and seeds. Roughly chop the flesh.
Place the pepper into the blender with the remaining ingredients and pulse until everything is roughly chopped – it can be as smooth or crunchy as you like. Add the olive oil last, adding enough so that the dip is the desired consistency. Taste and adjust for salt and chilli. If you don’t use all the dip in one sitting, store it in a clean glass jar with a lid in the fridge for up to 5 days (but it won’t last that long!).