Monday, March 11, 2013

simply delicious dip

Saturday I had an appointment in a city an hour away, which meant an opportunity to shop at grocery stores with lots of organic options, including fresh vegetables. For a special treat, I decided to buy the most delectable-looking organic greens I could find.

Fresh veggies don't keep well in my fridge; it's a tiny old fridge with two options:

1) keep all the fridge contents teetering on the edge of freezing


2) have meltwater from the little freezer compartment dripping down and pooling on everything below.  This option also makes opening the fridge door an adventure, let me tell you.  Nothing quite like opening the fridge first thing in the morning when you are not yet fully awake, and having a little wave of extremely cold water pour onto your feet.  Sometimes, my life is a bit like a cartoon.

3) Bonus option!  I just realized that a third choice would be to crank the dial all the way down and use the entire fridge as a freezer.  But then I would just fill it with frozen french fries and ice cream.  Or possibly just ice cream.


I generally choose the first option, which means most of my food is very, very cold, but not frozen solid.  The downside is, fresh vegetables don't have much of a chance.  They must either be eaten up in a day or two, or made into something else, such as soup or a casserole, that can take colder temperatures.


Here are the greens I selected on Saturday:

It seemed a little odd to be in a store boasting a massive display of loose produce and then to choose something prepackaged in a bag, but the three romaine hearts looked so perfect and clean and 100% edible, that they seemed like a fair deal.  I can't say "bargain" because the price was high, at least by my frugal standards: $4 for 12 oz of lettuce.

The above picture is what was left in the bag this morning. There were many outer leaves that have already been eaten.  They were delicious.

But the title of this post suggests a dip recipe, and here it comes.

Maybe everyone already knows about this, and if so, I hope I am not boring you. Perhaps the luscious lettuce leaves are worth the visit, at least for those of you who are, like me, still living in Winter? I hope so! 
I must also say, this is not much of a "recipe" but what else to call it?  "Trick" sounds sneaky or dishonest.  Suggestions for an alternative word welcome, as this will come up again.  My "cooking" and "recipes" are often of this level of complexity.

Here is my favorite way to make a dip or spread.  It is delicious.  I have taken a big bowl of this dip to parties, and people have begged for the recipe.  Seriously.  Begged.

It is versatile.  By modifying the ingredients slightly, or by serving it colder or warmer, it works as a thin dip or a thick dip, a chunky dip, or a sandwich spread.

It is simple to make.  There are TWO ingredients:

cream cheese


I've used many types of salsa, of varied heats and ingredients.
So far, every experiment has been a success.
Every time.

This dip is a great way to try out new salsa flavors and brands.  I've used everything from generic grocery-store brands to fancypants "gourmet" brands that were on sale, like this one:

If you start by experimenting with a few ounces of cream cheese and a good glug of salsa, you can taste as you go, knowing that more cream cheese makes it sweeter and cooler.

Or you can start with this simple combination:

8 ounces of cream cheese
6-8 ounces of salsa, depending on how thick and/or hot you want the dip to be.

Know also that the flavors will blend and change when the dip is in the fridge.  So exciting!

Of course the very best thing would probably be to use salsa one has put up from one's own garden vegetables.  I know lots of you do have lovely jars of homemade salsa glowing on your pantry shelves, and I admire you wholeheartedly.  If you try this dip, please tell me how awesome it tastes with homemade salsa!  Gardening inspiration needed, especially after the Flooding and Mudding Debacle of 2012!
To make your dip, all you have to do is warm the cream cheese a bit - I use 5-second shots in the microwave - then add the salsa and mix thoroughly.  You have a choice here: warm the cheese enough that it mixes completely, or a bit less, so there will be little chunks of cream cheese scattered throughout the dip.

You can also vary the taste and texture by adding more or less salsa.

These are the type of choices I can handle in life.
There is simply no way to lose.

Oh, and if you use a salsa that contains large chunks of tomato or such, you've got some excitement ahead!
Will the tortilla chips break under the load?
And will that stain ever come out of your favorite halter top?*
Yesterday I made a very thick batch, to spoon onto torn pieces of lettuce for a finger-food snack.  It was so good, I made it again for breakfast this morning.  

I wish you had been here to try it  :)

And here's an example what was left from the bag of lettuce:

Can't even call it "waste" because what you are looking at here is goat treats.  There will be Big Excitement in the paddock today, for about 30 seconds!

*No, that stain will never come out completely.  You will eventually admit defeat and cut up the halter top.  You will use the unstained piece of material to make a pincushion that will evoke memories of lovely summer days and remind you to buy cream cheese.