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Tasty, Healthy Holiday Dips

You see a lot of party dips at this time of year.

They're a holiday staple and very simple to serve. They can be healthy and taste great -- and you don't have to get them at the store, as cookbook author and cooking teacher Tori Ritchie proved on The Early Show Wednesday.

She served up pointers and recipes at the flagship store in Manhattan of specialty home furnishings retailer and Early Show partner Williams-Sonoma.

Skip the standard, store-bought blue cheese dip you buy at the store, says Ritchie, and dazzle your guests with a dip you whip up in your own kitchen!

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Spicy Eggplant Dip with Parmesan Toast
Greek Feta Spread (with radishes, cucumbers and pita wedges)
Green Goddess Dip (with potato chips or roasted root veggies)

Spicy Eggplant Dip with Parmesan Toast

Preparing the eggplant dip a day or two in advance lets the flavors to develop and gives you more time to prepare the rest of the food when you entertain. Be sure to bring the dip to room temperature before serving.

1/2 cup plus 3 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for brushing
2 eggplant, each about 12 oz., peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes
2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1 large yellow onion, chopped
1/4 tsp. red chili flakes
1/4 tsp. ground cumin
Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
2 Tbs. chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
Juice of 1 lemon
1 baguette, cut crosswise into 1/4-inch-thick slices
1/3 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

In a 4-quart deep sauté pan over medium heat, warm 1/4 cup of the olive oil until nearly smoking. Add half of the eggplant and sauté, stirring occasionally, until lightly golden and tender, 8 to 10 minutes. Transfer to a platter and repeat with 1/4 cup of the olive oil and the remaining eggplant. Transfer to the platter.

Warm 1 Tbs. of the olive oil in the pan. Add the garlic and sauté, stirring often, until just golden, about 1 minute. Add the onion and sauté, stirring occasionally, until tender, 4 to 5 minutes. Stir in the chili flakes and cumin until blended and return the eggplant to the pan. Cook, stirring often, until the eggplant is very tender and almost mushy, 6 to 8 minutes more. Remove from the heat and let cool for 5 minutes.

Transfer the eggplant mixture to a food processor or blender and puree until smooth. Taste and adjust the seasonings with salt and pepper, and stir in the parsley, lemon juice and the remaining 2 Tbs. olive oil. Transfer to a sealable container and refrigerate for 1 to 2 days.

Preheat an oven to 350ºF.

Arrange the baguette slices on a baking sheet. Brush the slices lightly with olive oil, season with salt and pepper, and sprinkle with the cheese. Bake until golden and crisp, 15 to 18 minutes. Let the toasts cool to room temperature and store in an airtight container until ready to serve.

Let the eggplant stand at room temperature for at least 30 minutes before serving. Serve the Parmesan toasts alongside.

Serves 8.

Williams-Sonoma Kitchen.

For more recipes, go to Page 2.

Greek Feta Spread (with radishes, cucumbers and pita wedges)

A cross between broccoli and Chinese kale, broccolini has a sweeter flavor than ordinary broccoli.

1/2 lb. Greek or French feta cheese
3 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
1 garlic clove, thinly sliced
1 Tbs. minced fresh mint or 1 tsp. crumbled dried mint
1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes, plus more as needed
6 Italian peperoncini (pickled green peppers), chopped, plus more as needed

In a food processor, combine the cheese, olive oil, garlic, mint, the 1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes and the 6 chopped peperoncini and process until smooth. Taste and add more red pepper flakes or peperoncini, if needed. Transfer to a serving bowl.

Makes 1 1/2 cups; serves 4.

Williams-Sonoma Kitchen.

Green Goddess Dip (with potato chips or roasted root veggies)

Redolent of fresh herbs, this dip is inspired by the classic green goddess salad dressing. The chef at San Francisco's Palace Hotel created the dressing in the 1920s to honor actor George Arliss, who was performing locally in a play called "Green Goddess."

2 Tbs. roughly chopped fresh chives
2 Tbs. roughly chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1 Tbs. roughly chopped fresh tarragon
2 Tbs. roughly chopped fresh basil
1 Tbs. roughly chopped fresh mint
2 or 3 anchovy fillets
1 shallot, roughly chopped
2 Tbs. fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup mayonnaise
3/4 cup sour cream
Potato chips for serving
Crudités for serving

In a blender or food processor, combine the chives, parsley, tarragon, basil, mint, anchovies, shallot, lemon juice and mayonnaise. Blend or process until smooth, about 1 minute or about 15 pulses.

Transfer the mixture to a bowl and stir in the sour cream. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes or up to 3 days. Serve with potato chips and crudités for dipping.

Makes about 1-1/2 cups.

Williams-Sonoma Kitchen.