Take a dip

Henri has recipes for your backyard party

Photo by Bruce Szalwinski (via Flickr)

As warm weather in Chico approaches, Henri’s thrilled at the thought of lazy evenings downtown—movies at the Pageant, double scoops of Chico Mint on waffle cones at Shubert’s and cooling off after midnight at One-Mile.

Chico late springs and summers are also perfect for dinner parties. Old friends, co-workers and neighbors get together in backyards—often poolside—and talk and laugh into the wee hours. Wine and music flow freely, and friendships are rekindled as old stories are told and plans made to stay in closer touch. Dinner parties: reminders of our connections to one another, the degree to which, despite occasional political or other differences, we all share the same needs—for love and laughter and simple human contact.

Or so Henri has heard.

On the other hand, with Henri’s culinary and oenological expertise and vast knowledge of world politics, film and literature—as well as his obvious modesty—if he ever were to be invited to a dinner party, he would be the most charming of guests. And if it’s a potluck, he would be thrilled to provide the appetizers, perhaps a dip, from his immense storehouse of possibilities.

These dips can be served with pita chips, tortilla chips, crackers or veggies. The wild mushroom and artichoke dip is best with sliced baguettes.

Romesco (roasted red pepper, almond and garlic dip)

1/2 cup toasted almonds

3 roasted red bell peppers (approx. 1 cup)

2 teaspoons red wine vinegar

1 large garlic clove, peeled

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

Finely chop almonds in food processor. Add peppers, vinegar and garlic and puree. With machine running, drizzle oil through feed tube. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Transfer to a small bowl. (May be made up to one day ahead. Bring to room temperature before serving.)

Avocado and yogurt dip with jalapeño and cilantro

16 ounces plain yogurt

1 1/2 teaspoons cumin

2 large ripe avocados, chopped

1/2 cup fresh cilantro, chopped

2 jalapeños, minced

1 small garlic clove, minced

Drain yogurt overnight in a strainer lined with cheesecloth over a medium bowl. Transfer yogurt to processor. Add cumin, avocado, cilantro, garlic and jalapeños. Puree. Garnish with cilantro.

Wild mushroom and artichoke dip

1 teaspoon olive oil

2 cups shiitake mushroom caps (or chanterelle or porcini), chopped

1 cup portobello mushroom caps, chopped

3 tablespoons vermouth (or dry white wine)

1/2 cup mayonnaise (optional)

1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

1/4 cup onion, chopped

1/4 cup green onion, thinly sliced

2 teaspoons fresh parsley, chopped

1 teaspoon garlic powder

3 teaspoons pepper

3/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon red pepper

1 14-oz can artichoke hearts, drained and chopped

16 ounces fat-free cream cheese

cooking spray

Preheat oven to 350. Heat oil in skillet over medium-high heat. Add mushrooms and vermouth and sauté until tender. Combine mushrooms and remaining ingredients in a large bowl, stirring until well blended. Spoon mixture into a two-quart casserole dish coated with cooking spray. Bake at for 30 minutes. Let cool.

Roasted red pepper and walnut dip

1/2 cup toasted walnuts

3/4 cup raisins

1/2 cup plain yogurt

pinch of salt

1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper

1 12-ounce bottle roasted red bell peppers, drained

Combine all ingredients in food processor and puree. (May be made up to one day ahead.)