I like to imagine that I am a polite human being, one to whom my children look as a role model, particularly for civility and poise. I believe I know how to dress appropriately for an occasion and how to be an engaging, even charming, host or guest. I do know which utensils to use at a fancy dinner party, and I can be counted upon not to slurp my soup or to drink so much wine that I topple over as I get up from the table.
And I promise I do know the etiquette of dips. If a dip is placed on, say, a coffee table, one is meant to dip her crudités daintily into the dip or spread it neatly onto a cracker. One should show restraint in partaking in a dip, as it is meant for all the assembled guests. One should even offer the dip around to her friends.
I’m afraid decades of etiquette training fell apart when this lovely dip was placed directly in front of me at a recent gathering in Georgetown. I took one bite and simply lost all control. Initially, I told myself I was doing recipe research: "What is that flavor? Certainly tangy feta and lemon, but where is that earthiness coming from? And which herbs? And what could possibly make it so creamy?"
But this “ research" excuse lost all credibility, even in my own head, when I descended into something else entirely. I was greedily scarfing the stuff down like someone who hadn’t eaten for months after having been stranded on a desert island. I didn’t share. In fact, I may have given a sharp elbow to my husband as he reached for a bite. The hidden toddler in me wanted to shout: “Mine!” I’m certain I quite embarrassed myself.
Thankfully my hostess Fiona was gracious enough to overlook my childish behavior and was more than happy to share the recipe for her magical creation, clipped and saved from the Washington Post. Turns out it is a dream recipe - one that comes together in a flash by tossing a few ingredients into a food processor.
Pistachios play the starring role. Fun fact: pistachios are part of the cashew family - which seemed odd to me, because cashews conjure up the tastes of Brazil to me and pistachios the Mediterranean. Still trying to work the geographic disconnect on that one.
Though I generally buy my pistachios in the shell (so I have to work a bit for my snacks, and can't get away with scarfing them down by the handful) I buy the shelled, unsalted version for this recipe. Feta and greek yogurt and lemon and herbs and garlic figure into this magical dip as well.
I love that this is an incredibly forgiving recipe - you can tinker with the quantities of the herbs, garlic, and lemon, depending on your tastes. And if you would like a creamier dip, add a bit of extra greek yogurt - this version is quite thick.
Serve it with pita chips, garlic toasts, or crudités. Or slather it on toast to make bruschetta. Or just eat it by the spoonful when no one is looking. I won't tell if you don't mind your manners...
Pistachio, Feta and Lemon Dip
15-20 servings; makes 2 3/4 cups
3 1/2 ounces (scant 1 cup) roasted unsalted pistachios
generous 1/4 cup good quality olive oil
10 ounces good-quality feta cheese, broken into small chunks (I used the crumbled feta)
1 handful fresh dill, coarsely chopped
2 handfuls parsley leaves, coarsely chopped
3 large cloves garlic, crushed
Heaping 3 tablespoons plain Greek yogurt (regular or low-fat)
Finely grated zest and juice of 1/2 lemon
Combine the pistachios and olive oil in a food processor; puree for 30 seconds, then add the feta, dill, cilantro, garlic, chili pepper, yogurt, and lemon zest and juice. Puree for about 1 minute or until the mixture has a nice, rustic texture. Any chunks of feta that are left should be no larger than a pea.
Taste, and season with a small pinch of salt. Serve at a cool room temperature with pita chips or crudites.