As summer winds down — because oh my goodness, it is definitely coming to a close in less than six weeks — I want this: a big blanket laid in any grassy plot, a little too much rose, and these dips. With these stunning dips and something to dip them all up, you have the makes of a summer afternoon that will no doubt be better than wonderful. Merci to Sean for feeding our picnic needs so beautifully.
To understand why I love picnics, you you need to understand British summers.
Let’s say British summers are … spontaneous.
Rain is always a possibility and therefore always on our minds. Alfresco plans are easily thwarted and perfect afternoons fleeting.
So when the sun does shine, we have to drop everything and embrace the day. Picnics are a part of our carpe diem-summer mentality; wake up and check the sky, call your friends, arrange a location, and each person bring a dish.
MORE: A roundup of our favorite picnic sides for outdoor dining.
It means there’s usually no time for elaborate cooking, but that’s alright. The best summer dishes are the ones that allow you to spend the least time in the kitchen and let you enjoy the outdoors. And in a happy coincidence, the fruits of summer are often so ripe and ready they need no tinkering.
The most perfect summer salads are things like zucchini strips dressed in lemon and oil, raw radishes with nothing but salt and butter, or fresh peas paired with mint.
MORE: An illustrated guide to the summer stunner of peaches and prosciutto.
In my opinion, picnics are the most perfect way to eat. There’s something about dining with nature all around that strips any and all pretenses away. Everyone becomes more laid back and carefree. Gone are the tablecloths, china plates, silverware, and crystal glasses; all are replaced by the love of serving good food with family or friends.
These traffic light dips are about letting three vegetables stand on their own and sing: the fava bean dip is creamy and fresh; the beet dip is earthy and rich; and the squash dip is sweet and spicy. However much you make of these dips, it will never be enough; just make sure you’ve got a good crusty loaf to mop, wipe, and dip them up.
MORE: These darling towels deserve a place in any picnic basket – perfect for presentation and clean-up.
Traffic Light Dips: Fava Bean & Parmesan, Beet & Smoked Garlic, Butternut Squash Hummus
Ingredients:Fava Bean & Parmesan Dip
- 1 1/2 pounds fava beans
- Juice of 1/4 lemon
- 1 sprig mint, roughly chopped
- 1 tablespoon parmesan
- 1 tablespoon heavy cream
- 1/2 garlic clove
- 2 tablespoons olive oil (not extra-virgin)
- Sea salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 1/2 pound cooked beets, diced
- 3 cloves smoked garlic or fresh garlic
- 1 teaspoon cumin seeds, toasted and pounded
- 1/2 cup fresh breadcrumbs
- 3 tablespoons oil (not extra-virgin)
- 1 tablespoon water
- Sea salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
- Juice of 1/2 lemon
- 1 1/2 pounds butternut squash, peeled and deseeded
- 1/2 teaspoon sea salt, plus more for sprinkling
- 3 tablespoons tahini
- 2 teaspoons honey
- 1/2 teaspoon chili flakes
- 1 sprig fresh oregano
- 2 tablespoons whole hazelnuts, chopped
Directions:For the Fava Bean & Parmesan Dip
- Bring a small saucepan of salted water to the boil. Meanwhile, pod and peel all the fresh beans and add to the water.
- Lower the heat and simmer the beans for 5 – 10 minutes, or until tender. Drain and wait until they are cool enough to handle, and then pop the beans out of their skins.
- Put the beans into a food processor with the garlic, lemon, mint and seasoning. Whizz until it’s a thick, coarse puree. Add the cream and Parmesan and whizz again. If the dip is too dry, add a drizzle of oil.
- Once it’s the right consistency, transfer to a bowl and season with more salt, pepper, lemon or mint if needed.
- Roughly chop the beets, smoked garlic, and stale bread and add all the bits to a food processor. Add 1 tablespoon of oil for now.
- Dry fry the cumin seeds by adding to a hot frying pan for 30 seconds. Then place in a pestle and mortar and pound until ground. Add to the food processor.
- Whizz the ingredients until a coarse mixture forms. It should be wet enough to bind together, so add the rest of the oil if needed, the lemon juice, or even water if it looks a bit dry or isn’t sticking together.
- Cut the squash into manageable pieces. Scoop out the seeds, discard and then peel. Dice the peeled squash to about 1-inch pieces. Add the pieces to a saucepan, sprinkle with salt and place the pan on a low heat. Cover with a lid and leave for 10 minutes.
- After 10 minutes, lift up the lid, stir the cubes and cover. Leave again for 10 minutes. Repeat the process about 4 or 5 times. Once the squash has completely broken down and turned to a thick paste that’s not too watery, remove from the heat. Stir until it becomes a puree.
- Add the tahini, honey, and chili flakes and stir. Let the puree cool and then adjust the flavor if needed, adding more salt or even water if the mixture is too thick.
- Put the dip into a bowl or container and sprinkle the hazelnuts, oregano, and salt over the top.
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