In August of 2014 – which, for those who are counting, was twenty-two entire months ago – I mentioned my friend Natalie’s “famous cucumber dip.” A bunch of you asked for the recipe, so I e-mailed Natalie, and she sent it promptly. The recipe is not fancy. It’s the opposite of fancy. I liked that about it, and I was very excited about the new chapter of my existence that was revealing itself, an existence promising as much famous cucumber dip as I could get myself around. I was going to write about it immediately. But then a few days went by, and then more days after that, and some more after that. By then, it was sometime around New Year’s Day of 2015 and I was grappling with my annual post-holiday case of Inbox Overwhelm, under whose wildly deranging influence I hastily shunted Natalie’s e-mail to a file called “Odds and Ends.” And there it stayed, forgotten but patient, until Memorial Day of this year, when Natalie showed up at our front door with a carton of sour cream, a cucumber, and a packet of Hidden Valley Ranch mix, and I remembered.
I’ll get this out of the way right now and say that cucumber dip does not photograph well. It is a shy, retiring thing; it does not make love to a camera. You’ve got to draw it out, preferably on a potato chip.
I imagine there are lots of versions of this recipe out there. I can tell you that Natalie’s isn’t actually Natalie’s at all, just like most of “my” recipes are not mine, but rather riffs on recipes and ideas that have been floating around from cook to cook and kitchen to kitchen. This particular recipe, as Natalie tells it, comes from her friend Daphne Eck. A number of years ago, she and Daphne went to visit a friend who was doing an artist residency in Minnesota, and they stayed in a cabin in the woods and had a “magical wonderland” of a weekend, watching fireflies, digging clay out of the river bed, and firing the pieces they built from it in the fire-pit-turned-mini-kiln. (Natalie does things like this, which is why I love Natalie.) Daphne made this dip at some point, and now, in Natalie’s memory, it’s tangled up with that weekend, Midwest nostalgia in edible form. She now makes it for birthday parties, summer holidays, and last weekend, the party to celebrate her husband Michael’s graduation from UW grad school with a dual Master’s in architecture and real estate development. For me, it’s tangled up in all of that, only I call it Natalie’s, not Daphne’s. Daphne: hi! And sorry.
We usually scoop up famous cucumber dip on potato chips, but it’s also right at home on carrot sticks, celery, fingers, whatever you like to dunk in dip. Happy almost-summer.
P.S. Several of you wrote to ask if I was giving up on my old love Orangette, because I hadn’t posted in few weeks. Please know that I’m not. If ever I’m not here for a stretch of time, it’s only because there are other things that need attention in my offline life, and that’s not a forever thing, or even a bad thing. If and when this blog reaches the end of its lifespan, I will be clear and intentional about it. You can count on me, and I’m honored that you do.
You could use any kind of cucumber here, but the fewer the seeds, the better. Oh, and if you can get it, Daisy is my favorite brand of sour cream. And for eating, potato chips with ridges are key for getting the “very most amount of dip possible,” in Natalie’s words.
In a medium bowl, stir together Ranch packet and sour cream.
Put two layers of paper towel on a large plate. Using the large-hole side of a box grater, grate the cucumber, skin and all, onto the plate. Put another sheet of paper towel over the pile of grated cucumber, and press and squeeze out the excess liquid. Add the grated cucumber to the sour cream mixture, and stir well to mix.
Eat cold and promptly, ideally with potato chips.