This is the first time in 10 years that I'm not living in Kentucky during the annual running of the Derby. I can't say I'll miss the race itself, but what I do miss are the little clues that the season-defining event is approaching.
There's a noticeable uptick in the amount of fresh mint available on shelves. You can spot women walking around with bags of rickrack trim and feathers, which are eventually meant to be applied to a hat. It's also well-established that you shouldn't expect a response to emails sent in the two weeks prior to Derby Day.
What I'm truly nostalgic for, though, are those little green tubs of Benedictine spread that can be purchased at Kentucky supermarkets — a must-have for any at-home Derby party.
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Benedictine was first invented in the early 20th century by Jennie Carter Benedict, a caterer and cookbook author from Louisville. It's a simple combination of cream cheese, cucumber and minced onion. Through time, ingredients — like green food coloring or Tabasco — have been added and subtracted.
Sometimes it's served as a dip alongside crudités, but I mostly associate it with little tea sandwiches served on pillowy white bread and cut into triangles. If you're planning to watch the race from the comfort of your home, consider whipping up a batch. I certainly will . . . likely with a bourbon cocktail or two.
Recipe: Kentucky-Classic Benedictine
- 1 large cucumber
- 1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, softened
- 1 1/2 tablespoons minced white onion
- 2 tablespoons Duke's mayonnaise
- 1 teaspoon hot sauce
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Combine all of the ingredients in a small food processor or blend to your desired consistency. Some folks prefer the cucumber to retain a little bit of its texture, while others desire something completely smooth.
- Once you've decided on texture, try the Benedictine and add salt and pepper to taste.
- You can serve the Benedictine as a dip alongside crackers and vegetables or as a sandwich spread.
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More recipes that feel like spring:
- A very versatile pickled pepper dressing
- A 5-ingredient formula for the perfectly creamy spring pea soup
- This one-pot chickpea pasta has the most craveable "creamy" sauce
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