Easy holiday entertaining with dips from around the lake

Inspire your holiday appetizer offerings with this list of the lake area’s best dips and dippers.

’Tis the season for entertaining, and what to serve is surely at the forefront of every host’s mind. But this year’s holiday gatherings needn’t be daunting. Take the pressure off by whipping up an appetizer that’s both classy and crowd-pleasing—the dip. With endless variations, from classic hummus and pita to fresh salsa decked out with avocado and shrimp, dips can be your secret weapon this holiday season. We’ve compiled a list of our favorite dips in the Lake Minnetonka area to inspire the appetizer spread at your next event.

Hummus / Christos

If dropping temperatures have you wishing you were relaxing on a Mediterranean beach, look no further than Christos Greek restaurant. The family-owned operation offers a variety of authentic dips, all packed with flavors that will transport you to an idyllic Greek isle without the cost of a plane ticket.

If you’re unsure where to begin, start with the basics—classic hummus. Christos’ version is a savory blend of roasted garbanzo beans, sesame paste, parsley and a healthy dose of garlic finished with olive oil and lemon juice. The chilled dip is served with warm pita bread and is the perfect way to satisfy your guests’ appetites and their wanderlust.

For something a little more exotic, choose from three of Christos’ less well-known but equally delightful dips. The melitzanosalata is an eggplant spread with origins on the island of Cyprus, and consists of roasted eggplant puréed with olive oil, lemon and garlic. Though simple, this traditional dish is deep in flavor, the smoky meatiness of the eggplant balanced by silky olive oil and the burst of acidic lemon. Next in the lineup is tzatziki, a blend of cool Greek yogurt (made in-house), cucumbers, dill and garlic. Last but not least is skordalia. This dip is the height of simplicity, made from only three ingredients: puréed potatoes, garlic and olive oil. Think mashed potatoes with the savory spice of garlic and smooth olive oil finish.

Hard pressed to choose just one? No need to worry; Christos offers a dip sampler platter with some of each. Single dips, $6.35 each; sampler platter, $9.45. 15600 Highway 7, Minnetonka; 952.912.1000.


(serves 4)

For this classic Mediterranean favorite, you’ll need:

1 can (15 oz.) garbanzo beans, drained
1 Tbsp. tahini (sesame paste) or sesame seeds
3 Tbsp. olive oil, divided
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 Tbsp. + 1 tsp. fresh parsley, thinly sliced
1 Tbsp. lemon juice
Salt and pepper to taste

Heat 1 Tbsp. olive oil in a small skillet. Add minced garlic and cook until tender and fragrant, about three minutes. Set aside.

In a blender, combine garbanzo beans, tahini (or sesame seeds if using), the remaining 2 Tbsp. olive oil, 3 Tbsp. parsley and garlic. Blend until smooth. Add salt and pepper to taste and serve garnished with lemon juice and remaining parsley.

To keep with the Greek theme, try serving your hummus with mini falafels or assorted olives.

Take it from the experts!

Hummus, while traditionally served with pita bread, is highly versatile and makes a great dip for crisp veggies of all kinds.

Guacamole / Lago Tacos

Although this ubiquitous green-hued dip may seem like old news, we prefer to think of it as a reliable classic. The version at Lago Tacos in Excelsior is true to form, a blend of creamy avocado, aromatic cilantro, onion and a pinch of salt. A scattering of jalapeño peppers and a dash of lime juice lend that bright summer flavor missing from many dishes at this time of year. The zingy concoction is served on a bed of shredded lettuce with fresh corn tortilla chips for dipping. If you want to add some protein, Lago suggests topping your guac with juicy grilled shrimp for a small up-charge.

Love guacamole but craving some variety? Lago’s menu also features a “chips and dips” appetizer, which includes the guacamole, but presents it alongside the restaurant’s house salsa (a perky fresh tomato and onion number, dotted with cilantro, of course), a salsa verde, and refried pinto beans. Double-dipping encouraged. Guacamole, $7.95; tortilla chips and dip, $6.95. 30 Water St., Excelsior; 952.300.8495.

(serves 4)

For this simple and healthy dip, you’ll need:

2 avocados
½ medium-sized red onion, diced
1 jalapeño pepper, seeded and chopped
¼ cup loosely packed cilantro leaves, thinly sliced
Juice from 1 small lime
½ tsp. salt

In a small bowl, mash avocados with a fork. Stir in onion, jalapeño and salt. Immediately before serving, add lime juice and fresh cilantro, giving the dip one last stir.

For some variety and to keep things light, try serving guacamole with fresh veggies rather than chips—radishes, carrot sticks, snap peas and cauliflower are all healthy and delicious options to complement this dip.

If you’re really feeling exotic, try some fruit with your guacamole. Mango and pineapple both make great additions if you like a little sweet with your savory.

For a flavorful change-up, Lago Tacos suggests serving your guac with juicy grilled shrimp.

Chili Shrimp and Avocado Salsa / BLVD Kitchen & Bar

Chef Christian Oxley of BLVD takes your taste buds for a spin with his variation on ceviche, a Latin American dish of citrus-cured fresh seafood. The BLVD version stars shrimp marinated in lemon and lime juices for upward of 24 hours, infusing the tender crustaceans with explosive citrus flavor. The shrimp is then tossed with cubed avocado and local sweet corn that has been roasted with the husk on, before being charred on the grill. This delectable trio is dressed in a house-made lemon mint crème fraîche and served with corn tortilla chips fried to order.

BLVD takes pride in being able to source ingredients locally, including everything from the sweet corn to the corn tortillas used to make the chips, which are delivered weekly from Minneapolis’ La Perla Torterilla. The family-owned tortilla makers have been in business for more than 20 years. Chili shrimp and avocado salsa, $13. 11544 Wayzata Blvd., Minnetonka; 763.398.3200.

Roasted Tomato Bruschetta / Spasso Restaurant

This take on bruschetta is well-suited to the frigid north, where the window of opportunity for fresh tomatoes is regrettably narrow. The tomatoes are slow-roasted in the oven before they are combined with sautéed shallots and fresh basil and drizzled in a rich balsamic reduction. This savory appetizer is served with Spasso’s homemade crostini, which are brushed with olive oil and popped in the restaurant’s wood-fired pizza oven until delightfully crisp. Roasted tomato bruschetta, $9. 17523 Minnetonka Blvd., Minnetonka; 952.224.9555.

Roasted Tomato Bruschetta
(serves 4)

For this cold-weather twist on the classic Italian appetizer, you’ll need:

2 pints grape or cherry tomatoes
2 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
2 medium shallots, sliced
½ cup basil leaves, thinly sliced
3 tsp. olive oil, divided
Salt and pepper

Heat oven to 400 degrees F. Toss tomatoes in olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Spread tomatoes on a foil-lined baking sheet and scatter with chopped garlic.

Roast for 20 minutes, or until tomatoes begin to burst.

Meanwhile, heat remaining tablespoon of olive oil in a small skillet. Sauté sliced shallots for 10 minutes or until golden brown and beginning to caramelize. Set aside while tomatoes finish roasting.

After tomatoes have roasted, mix them with the sautéed shallots and freshly sliced basil leaves. To serve, drizzle with balsamic vinegar and garnish with more basil. While a good crusty loaf of bread is a classic vehicle for this rich dip, feel free to get creative with your bruschetta accompaniments.

Add a creamy slice of fresh mozzarella to your bruschetta creation.

Spinach and Artichoke Dip / Redstone Grill

For something warm and rich to keep the cold at bay, try Redstone Grill’s spinach and artichoke dip. This indulgent appetizer is a blend of cream, sautéed onions, fresh spinach and Spanish artichokes, topped with a sprinkling of grana padano cheese. Redstone adds its own twist by serving the spinach and artichoke dip alongside a helping of house-made fresh tomato salsa. The accompanying tortilla chips are made on-site daily and provide a delightful crunch to contrast with the dip’s smooth creaminess. Spinach and artichoke dip, $11. 12501 Ridgedale Drive. 952.591.0000.