Bagna Cauda is a dish from the Piedmont region of Northwest Italy. The Italians typically eat this warm dip in the fall and winter, but I like to break the so called “rules” and serve it in the spring and summer months as a light dip for fresh, colorful raw vegetables like carrots, cucumber, cauliflower, peas and radish.
This warm dip with crudité (raw vegetables) was often served for the field workers during the harvest months. The term “bagna cauda” translates from Italian to “hot bath”; cloves of garlic are simmered with anchovies in olive oil and finished with butter, lemon zest and red wine vinegar.
Don’t count out anchovies, even if you aren’t a fan; give them a try in this recipe anyway. You can’t necessarily taste the anchovy flavor but they provide a briny, umami flavor that rounds out the dipping sauce. While oil-packed anchovies are traditionally used, I also like using the anchovy paste that comes in a tube – it lasts longer and can be kept in the fridge for easy use.
I always use fresh cloves of garlic, the pre-minced jars of garlic don’t taste the same. It loses a lot of the powerful garlic flavor when it’s jarred. This is because it has been soaked in water for a long period of time. Peeling garlic only takes a bit. As the garlic is cooked the flavor mellows so it’s not very pungent but adds a base flavor.
While all olive oil comes from the fruit of olive trees, it’s not all created equal. Extra-virgin olive oil is unrefined and made from pure, cold-pressed olives, giving it more of a true olive taste. Regular olive oil is made from a blend of both cold-pressed and processed oils. I typically cook with extra-virgin olive oil when deciding between the two. Olive oil has a lower smoke point than many other oils, making it better for lower temperature cooking. Save pricey olive oils for finishing the recipe where the flavors will really shine – like in dips, for breads and salad dressing.
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