Bagna Cauda with Spring Vegetables

This wonderfully warm, zesty, garlic dip is a delight to serve with garden veggies on a cool spring evening. Bagna Cauda, hailing from the Piedmont area of Italy, is the perfect accompaniment to grilled asparagus (featured last Friday), but will go with pretty much any crispy garden vegetable. I adapted this recipe from Alice Waters’s Chez Panisse Cookbook, and it’s become one of my favorites (if I do say so my gosh darn self).

You can serve Bagna Cauda in wide variety of ways, so get creative. Here’s the thing, though, as delicious as this stuff is, it’s not exactly the prettiest looking food. But, over the years, I’ve managed to come up with a few different techniques to make it more attractive on the plate.

Try to pick out a really stunning, small bowl and place it on an eye-catching tray mounded with gorgeous, seasonal raw veggies.  You’re basically crowding out the brown, dreary dip with layers of vibrant seasonal color.

Or, try a small fondue pot with a heating element. This works especially well because Bagna Cauda likes to coagulate and stiffen if left out unheated (could this stuff take any more beatings with the ugly stick?). This method is perfect for entertaining because you can leave the dip out, socialize, and your guests can come back to it at their leisure.

If you have a set of small ramekins, you can divide the recipe into individual portions so that each person has his/her own crudité plate (no worries about double dipping during cold and flu season).

Lastly, sometimes, I simply drizzle the sauce over the either the entire platter of veggies or on individual plates of veggies to make a unique, and delicious plated first course.

The one great thing about Bagna Cauda (besides it’s garlicky goodness, of course) is that you can make it ahead of time and heat it up right before serving. It’s easy to make, and you can follow it with just about any main course. If you decide to use carrots or radishes, be sure to keep about 2 inches of the stems on your roots – these act as perfect organic “spoons.”

Spring Vegetable Bagna Cauda

Adapted from Alice Waters Chez Panisse cookbook

 

I try to mix up the flavors of this dip by serving it with an assortment of spring veggies. Fennel, asparagus, radishes, romanesco, sugar snap peas, and colorful carrots are all fantastic. I mean, it’s garlic sauce—how could you go wrong? As long as your vegetables are fresh and in season, don’t be afraid to experiment. Sometimes I even will roast potatoes or beets to get some texture contrast on the plate. Just remember, please, please no pre-cut mini carrots!

 

2 cloves of garlic

10 white anchovy filets

Sea salt

Crushed red pepper

1 cup of Extra Virgin Olive Oil

4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter

1 teaspoon of Sherry

Zest of one lemon

Juice of one lemon (freshly squeezed)

Wash, dry and prepare the vegetables. Wrap in a clean towel and store in the fridge to arrange just before serving. If using grilled asparagus, prepare as shown here.

 

In a mortar, pound the garlic to a paste with sea salt and red pepper. Then. add the anchovies and lemon zest and pound again until roughly mashed. Warm the olive oil and butter over medium-low heat. Add half the anchovy mixture, sherry, lemon juice, and olive oil to the pan and gently simmer for 2 minutes, skimming off the milk solids (also known as white foam) that form on the top of the mixture. Just before serving, stir in the remaining anchovy mixture and taste for salt and red pepper. Transfer the sauce to your serving vessel of choice to serve.

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