Fill your Memorial Day with ‘Big Dip Energy’ — bring the chips!

By Evan Kleiman

Alyse Whitney’s recipe for Miso Eggplant Dip features a silken tofu base to create a luxurious and nutrition-packed snack. Photo credit: Andrew Bui.

Memorial Day weekend is traditionally for relaxing with friends and undoing the top button of one's pants to accommodate all the eating. It’s one of the biggest barbeque times of the year, but starters and sides are lavish and rich as well. And it’s a time when one abandons moderation in order to fully embrace the dip. 

A new cookbook came out this year that is so exuberant and just plain fun: Big Dip Energy by Alyse Whitney, who has never met a dip pun she didn’t love. Whitney is the food columnist for Cosmopolitan. She calls dip the universal love language. The book is filled with all kinds of ideas — classics with a twist, five-minute recipes for slackers, a slew of “Brighter (and a Lil’ Lighter).” And each dip recipe comes with suggestions for what she calls the Dipper Matrix, both homemade and store-bought.

One of my favorite dip tips Whitney gives is for cottage cheese heads, of which I am one. We can sub out sour cream for cottage cheese, as long as we blend it first using a blender, immersion stick blender, or food processor. The texture will be thicker than sour cream, so thin it out with a little milk.  

Another tip for shredding cheese, which can get messy and onerous if you’re doing a large quantity, is to buy sliced cheese at the deli and simply chop it up. Different shape but same effect. I love these tips, and we can use them with our own recipes we’re already wedded to.

You’re having people over, so how much dip should you make? Whitney suggests ¼ cup of dip per person, which is 2 ½ cups for 10 people. Of course you can always make more. More is good when it comes to dip.

Over the course of the life of my restaurant Angeli, we served millions of Caesar salads, which meant making gallons of Caesar dressing. Ours was emulsified, which meant diners used it as a de facto dip for our bread. Whitney takes this idea and leans into it with her Caesar Salad Dip. The romaine is blitzed in the blender along with the other ingredients. It’s a mayo-sour cream-based dip with a copious amount of grated parmesan and garlic, of course. The addition of the lettuce lightens the dip while adding texture.

Some lower-fat, healthier options are her Green Goddess Hummus, the Miso Eggplant Dip (which has a silken tofu base to create a luxurious and nutrition-packed snack), and a ricotta-butternut squash situation (which is pureed, then served in a baked butternut squash half).

If you want to lean into garlic, she has a take on toum, the Lebanese condiment we slather on everything. Whitney turns it Korean-ish with ssamjang — the spicy, sweet paste that accompanies Korean barbeque and a bit of sesame oil.

She carries her exuberance into the dessert dips. One of my favorites is a take on cannoli filling. I’ve been making a version of this for years. It’s a mixture of ricotta and mascarpone, with just enough sugar and orange juice and zest for sweetness and flavor, and of course some mini chocolate chips give it the classic cannoli vibe. Her Egg Tart Dip, playing off the wildly popular Portuguese custard tarts, is kind of genius. Both of these dips are excellent scooped up with fresh fruit.

As for dippers, you can imagine the creative madness of Big Dip Energy. From the “Carb Collective” to “Obligatory but not Boring Veggies,” there is a scooper you’ll like. I’m partial to her veggie ribbons made by shaving veggies with a mandoline or “Y” peeler, then icing down in a bowl of water. She also chars baby bell peppers and shishitos in a sauté pan. And uses pickled veg like cauliflower florets, which is so much less sad to me than limp broccoli. For a high-protein option, I love her idea of cutting the Indian cheese paneer into sticks, then browning them on all sides. But from rice cakes to little sausages, you will come away from Big Dip Energy with so many ideas.

The Green Goddess Hummus recipe is a low-fat, healthy option from “Big Dip Energy.” Photo credit: Andrew Bui.