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Bagna Cauda ~ ‘Hot Bath’

Bagna Cauda, is a traditional dish from the Northern region of Italy, Piedmont. Literally translated as “hot bath,” this dipping sauce for vegetables often appears in many Italian homes as part of the Christmas Eve buffet. Although cardoons, an edible thistle related to the artichoke but resembling celery are traditional, celery makes a fine substitute and any combination of vegetables will do.

It is a warm dip made with Olive Oil or Walnut Oil that is heated with generous amounts of garlic and… please do not panic when you read this, I promise you, that when you try this recipe you will fall in love with the abominable ingredient “anchovies”. Me, I’m not afraid at all, I’m an anchovy lover, but I know that there are a lot of people who are even scared by the word. Not to mention the profound and terrified feeling if they know they are an ingredient in their food preparation, and some people can’t stand the thought of having to touch them.

Well, what can I say? Give anchovies a chance. Anchovy flavor when it is paired with different foods and used as condiment to enhance the deep flavors in sauces or stews, acts as a salty umami background flavor. It gives a salty and nutty note that can bring any sauce, salad dressing, marinade or stew to a whole different level. No fishiness or crazy smells. And particularly in this warm sauce, it brings the punch of flavor to the hot tub party!

In Italy, the routine goes like this: Vegetable pieces are dipped into the sauce (a fondue-style fork will help) and then eaten, with a slice of bread held underneath to catch the drippings. Once the bread is soaked with sauce, it’s eaten too. Then everyone starts over. It’s fun for a party appetizer no matter where you live!

There are two ways to prepare Bagna Cauda, the oil route or the creamy route, I like the creamy version 🙂 This recipe for Bagna Cauda with Crudites and Baguette comes from Anthony Bourdain, give it a try. When choosing your vegetable assortment apply the colors of the rainbow, sounds silly but this will ensure you have a great variety of flavor, texture, and colorful vegetables that will bring a great visual interest to your table. Because in the end if it looks good you are more likely to eat it. So have fun! And don’t forget some good, crusty baguette!

“The passion of the Italian or the Italian-American population is endless for food and lore and everything about it.”
~ Mario Batali

Maple Bundt Cake Photo