Retro Summer Classics: Seven-Layer Dip

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Summer dining often means eating outdoors, and many times a summer dinner consists entirely of noshing on an assortment of appetizers, tapas, dips, salads and crudités. Today we are looking at the Grandmother of summer appetizers, the classic Seven-Layer Dip.

This sort of cuisine is often referred to as Tex-Mex, a term that the culinary world adopted in the early nineteen sixties to describe the fusion of Tejano and American cuisines typical of  Texas and other southern states. Tex-Mex cuisine is characterized by the marrying of typical Mexican dishes with American influences, especially cheese, and lots of it, shredded and/or melted.

So what are the magic seven layers? Ask seven people and you’ll likely get seven different answers, but the standard answers revolve around refried beans, guacamole, sour cream, pico de gallo, shredded cheese, black olives and finally, the chef’s choice of spiced ground beef, or if keeping it vegetarian, shredded lettuce or sliced jalapeño peppers. Since we are looking at this as a summer dish, perhaps we’ll opt for a meatless version that can be kept cool in the fridge, and save the beef for football season.

 

de rigeur for pizzas, nachos and seven layer dip

de rigeur for pizzas, nachos and seven layer dip

 

Speaking of ingredients, the black olives you want to use are the canned, sliced and pitted variety, not your favourite Liguria or Kalamata olives. This is a classic case of convenience winning out over taste, and there is a certain nostalgic visual appeal associated with these perfectly pitted, perfectly sliced but bland olive rings.

Pico de gallo is simply a dish of chopped tomato, onion and cilantro with a little lime juice, sometimes with chopped jalapeño peppers added as well, though in this case if you are adding jalapeño in your top layer you might as well forego them in the pico de gallo. For the guacamole, let’s keep it simple and simply mash 2 or 3 avocados with a squeeze of lime, a clove of minced or microplaned  garlic and a tablespoon of chopped cilantro. The shredded cheese most often used is cheddar, or Monterey Jack or a blend of both. Refried beans-or refritos– are another ingredient you will likely want to purchase pre-made, though if homemade is preferred, have at it.

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This simple dish never fails to delight, and preparing the components and assembling them- including the squabbling about what order to lay down the ingredients- is almost as much fun as eating it.

Digging in to this fabulous dish with corn or tortilla chips, and washing it down with watermelon punch or an icy cold cerveza or margarita, is a summertime repast that’s pretty hard to top.

 

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Seven-Layer Dip

1-16 oz can refried beans

½ teaspoon ground cumin

1.5 cups guacamole

12-oz sour cream

1.5 cups grated cheddar and/or Monterey Jack cheese

2 cups pico de gallo

1 can sliced black olives

shredded iceberg lettuce

Mix the refried beans with the cumin and spread evenly in a 9×13 pyrex pan. Spread the guacamole evenly over the refried beans. Next spread the sour cream, then the shredded cheese, then a layer of pico de gallo. Top with the sliced black olives and fresh chopped iceberg lettuce. That’s seven layers, innit? Chill in the refrigerator for an hour or so before serving with tortilla chips to tremendous applause.

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