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Published October 01, 2013, 10:00 PM

In search of the perfect dip: Bagna Caoda zesty, delicious dipping oil

I’m a Midwesterner at heart and, while I love these Italian specialties, in my mind it’s not really a party without a good party dip.

By: Tony and Sarah Nasello, INFORUM

Tony, Gio and I love to throw a good party, and being Italian (after nearly 20 years of being married to one, it’s just become easier to lump myself into that group), our party buffets usually have a heavy emphasis on traditional antipasti foods: cured Italian meats, a variety of specialty cheeses, good bread, olives and grilled veggies.

I’m a Midwesterner at heart and, while I love these Italian specialties, in my mind it’s not really a party without a good party dip. In fact, the very first food I ever prepared for Tony was Lipton’s Onion Dip, and I’m convinced it was this dish that led him to propose. I’m not kidding. He loved it and thought I was terrifically creative. I almost didn’t have the heart to show him the packet of onion soup mix that really provided the magic.

Needless to say, dips are not a big part of our culinary repertoire. I have two recipes that I bounce between, the traditional onion dip (which we still love), and a classic from the 1970s called Hot Chipped Beef Dip, which my mother made often when I was growing up.

Tony has only one dip in his arsenal, a traditional warm dip from Italy’s Piedmont region called Bagna Caoda.

Bagna Caoda (pronounced bahn-ya cow-da) is served warm and is similar in style to a vegetable fondue. Prepare a vegetable platter of crisp raw or quickly blanched vegetables and crusty bread and invite your guests to dip them in the hot sauce. Celery, carrot and fennel sticks, green onions, green beans, and bell pepper strips work great because their length and texture make them easy for dipping. But you can be creative and use artichoke hearts, broccoli, cauliflower or any other vegetables you like. Crusty bread chunks also work well with this dip.

It’s an unusual recipe, made of extra virgin olive oil, garlic, butter and anchovies. Many people are afraid of these little fish, but Tony believes that they get a bad rap, as they add so much flavor and depth to a dish.

I like anchovies, but I have to admit I was a little wary the first time I tried bagna caoda. However, the anchovies break down completely during the cooking process, and the result is a zesty, delicious, and well-balanced dipping oil, perfect for serving with raw vegetables and crusty bread pieces.

With party season looming, we think it’s time to expand our dip collection, so we’re launching a contest, “In Search of the Perfect Party Dip.”

Here’s how it’s going to work: You have until Oct. 16 to submit the recipe for your favorite homemade party dip (it can’t be as simple as sour cream and soup mix). Please send recipes to us via email, on our blog or through snail mail, and we encourage you to include a story and/or picture with your submission.

Tony and I will choose a handful of favorites for further consideration, and an independent panel of seven judges will be selected to choose our finalists.

We will announce the finalists and their recipes Oct. 23 in The Forum and on our blog, and serve these party dips in the Sarello’s Wine Lounge Oct. 29-30 for the public to taste and vote for the winner. Your recipe must be exact, as our chefs will want to make it just the way you do at home.

The winning recipe will be announced on Nov. 6 in both our column and on the blog.

The person with the winning recipe will receive a fabulous prize basket, featuring a great selection of prizes which will include:

• A four-course dinner for two at Sarello’s

• One Daily Bread each month for a year, and dipping oils and vinegar from Breadsmith

• A piece of original pottery from North Dakota potter Tama Smith, of Prairie Fire Pottery, Beach, N.D.

• The opportunity to participate in the demonstration video with Tony on InforumTV.com.

• $50 Hornbachers gift card.

More prizes will be announced in the weeks leading up to Nov. 6.

Please include your name, city and a complete recipe, and submit through the comments section of our blog or send it to dine@sarellos.com or

The Lost Italian Party Dip Contest

c/o Sarello’s

28 4th St. N.

Moorhead, MN 56560


Contest rules, eligibility requirements and more information are available on our blog at http://thelostitalian.areavoices.com.

Home with the Lost Italian is a weekly column written by Sarah Nasello featuring recipes by her husband, Tony Nasello. The couple owns Sarello’s restaurant in Moorhead and lives in Fargo with their 8-year-old son, Giovanni. Readers can reach them at dine@sarellos.com. All previous recipes can be found at http://thelostitalian.areavoices.com


Bagna Caoda (hot sauce)

Ingredients

4 tablespoons unsalted butter

5 cloves of garlic, thinly sliced

1 cup extra virgin olive oil

¼ pound anchovy fillets

Directions

Melt the butter in a sauce pan and sauté the garlic for three to four minutes over medium-low heat. Pour in the olive oil and stir in the anchovies until a creamy consistency is obtained. The mixture may develop a foamy texture while cooking. This is normal and will disappear as the sauce continues cooking. Simmer for about 30 minutes, stirring often.

The sauce will turn mostly clear, with the anchovies dissolving into tiny little pieces at the bottom. Pour the mixture into a fondue pot or terra cotta bowl placed over a spirit burner to keep hot while serving.

Tony’s Tips

• To temper the garlic, you can remove the hearts from the garlic cloves or marinate the garlic in milk for a few hours before use.

• Use unsalted butter for all your baking and cooking needs. By using unsalted butter, you are in control of how much salt your dish contains. In this dish, for example, the anchovies will provide enough salt on their own.

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