OUT OF THE garden an into the dip go the vegetables. This is a fact of life in August.
The variables are: What vegetables? What dips? What presentations? Here are some comments and suggestions.
Broccoli : Small flowers of garden fresh broccoli have a sweetness and a tenderness that may be best appreciated when eaten raw. When dealing with the stalky, store-bought version of this vegetable, steam the pieces for about 5 minutes. In addition to improving the taste and texture, steaming enhances the color. When purchasing broccoli, try to find stalks that are succulent at the bottom and have tiny buds at the top.
Carrots : Carrots deserve a better fate than being thrown on a plate with some celery and left to wilt on the coffee table. Their color alone makes them remarkable among vegetables. If you don't grow your own, try buying baby carrots for a change. Aside from their more subtle taste the length is just right for dipping and you only have to cut them in half.
Cauliflower : This is the opposite of broccoli, as far as I am concerned, and is best eaten raw. When shopping, look for heads that are free of black, mildew-like spots.
Cherry Tomatoes : Their shape, color and taste make them invaluable additions to the dipping tray, especially if they are home-grown. Spear them with toothpicks or just use fingers, but be sure to eat the whole tomato. A delicate bite may send seeds squirting.
Cucumbers : The problem with cucumbers if you like them is that the dip always seems to slide off.If you don't like them, the problem is that they always seem to be on the tray. Peel them, cut them into wedges and deal with either problem as best you can.
Green Beans : Although somewhat awkward for dipping, green beans are nice for variety. Home-grown ones can be used raw. Those from the market might be steamed for about 5 minutes.
Peppers : Green and/or red, peppers make good dippers because when they are sliced they have little hooks on the bottom. Home-grown ones tend to have thinner skins and a sweeter flavor than those found in the market. When shopping avoid the largest size and the darkest. The others have a better taste.
Sugar Peas : If you grow them, you may just nibble them for snacks and have none left for any other purpose -- they're that good. If you have them, use them.
Zucchini : A gift and a burden to the gardener. What to do with it all? For dipping parboil it. Cut off the ends and cook in a large amount of boiling water for about 5 minutes. Then drain, run under cold water and refrigerate. Shortly before serving, cut crosswise into 2 to 3 pieces and lengthwise into 6 to 8 wedges. The taste is better this way.
Vegetables themselves can be stunning containers for dips. Peppers are particularly suitable for this purpose. Cut off and discard the top; scoop out the seeds and whitish membrane with your fingers; rinse and pat dry with paper towels; trim the bottom carefully so that the pepper will stand straight; fill just before serving. Cabbages, tomatoes and large zucchini may also be used.
Use a basket. Line it with lettuce and arrange clusters of prepared vegetables in it. Have the dip itself in a glass in the center.
Or, try glass. Fresh vegetables tend to look even fresher against the clear, ice-like background of a glass platter.
Here are some interesting dips: BEST YET (Makes about 2 cups) 2 eggs 1/4 cup white wine vinegar Juice of 1 (juicy) lemon 2 large cloves garlic, coarsely chopped 1/2 teaspoon dry mustard 2 teaspoons salt or to taste 1/4 teaspoon white pepper or to taste 1/2 teaspoon sugar 1 cup olive oil Crack eggs into the top of a nonaluminum double boiler. Add vinegar and lemon juice and cook over simmering water, beating constantly with a whisk, until thick and custardy. Remove from heat. Add garlic, mustard, salt, pepper and sugar, continuing to beat until mixture cools slightly. Transfer to a food processor. Add oil in a thin steady stream, as if making as mayonnaise. Consistency will be that of buttermilk.
Keep in refrigerator. If dip separates, beat with a fork just before serving. EGGPLANT (Makes about 2 cups) 1 1/2 pound eggplant (1 large or 2 small) 2/3 cup olive oil 2 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped Handful of parsley, tops only Juice of 1 1/2 (juicy) lemons 1 teaspoon salt or to taste Peel eggplant and cut into rather small (about 1 inch) cubes. Soak cubes in cold, generously salted water, weighting them down with a plate, for about 20 minutes to remove some of the bitterness. Drain.
Heat oil in a large skillet. Add eggeplant and cook over moderate heat, stirring frequently, until tender and golden brown. Add garlic about 5 minutes before end of cooking time, which should be about 20 minutes altogether.
Transfer to a food processor and add parsely and lemon juice. Work until creamy. Consistency will be that of a thick mayonnaise. Keep in refrigerator. CURRY MAYONNAISE (Makes about 2 cups) 1 egg Juice of 1 (juicy) lemon 1 teaspoon salt or to taste 1/8 teaspoon black pepper or to taste 1/2 teaspoon dry mustard 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper or to taste 2 teaspoons curry power 2/3 cup olive oil Juice of 1/2 (juicy) lime Put egg, juice of 1/2 of the lemon, and spices in food processor. Work until frothy. Add oil in a slow steady stream, keeping food processor running. Add juice of remaining 1/2 lemon and of the lime. Keep in refrigerator.
Note: For plain mayonnaise, use egg, lemon, salt, pepper, and only 1/4 teaspoon dry mustard. PLAIN PINK (Makes about 2 cups) Half of a small (6-inch) cucumber 2 teaspoons paprika, preferably Hungarian 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper or to taste 1 teaspoon salt or to taste 1/4 teaspoon liquid smoke (optional) 1 pound sour cream Peel cucumber. Cut the half to be used into pieces and scoop out the seeds. Pulverize in food processor. Add remaining ingredients. Flick processor on and off until mixture is smooth. Keep in refrigerator.
Note: If substituting yogurt for sour cream, stir in by hand to avoid liquefication.