Spending this busy summer in virtually a constant state of prolonged distraction, I have dedicated very little time to shopping farmers markets, meal planning and recipe developing. And oppressive humidity has not contributed to my creativity in the kitchen!

However, the solution to my dilemma has been right at my fingertips for months: in my vibrant herb planters, just beyond my kitchen door. On my deck this summer, I am growing basil, rosemary, tarragon, thyme, mint, marjoram, oregano and cilantro (and the only one that is not flourishing at the moment is my cilantro).

Several of these fresh and fragrant herbs are the basis for these five unique, healthy and satisfying dips that celebrate the season and “double” as sauces, soup, spreads and condiments.

Most of these dips involve little or no cooking. I created all but the pea, mint and feta dip for the first time — but definitely not for the last.

All are great for grazing, backyard barbecues, to pack in your beach coolers or to take along on a picnic. Or any time when you are just too busy, distracted, lazy or hot to give it your all!

AVOCADO GREEN GODDESS DIP

This vibrant dip tastes as fresh and healthy as it looks. I have substituted creamy avocado for mayonnaise and loaded up on a generous amount of freshly cut herbs, and it really hits all the right notes. Fresh herbs are a must; do not use dried. The dip can also be used a dressing; just add 1-2 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar.

Serves a small crowd

1 cup fresh Italian parsley leaves, roughly chopped

1/4 cup fresh chives, finely chopped, plus more for garnish

1/4 cup fresh tarragon leaves

1 large clove garlic, minced

2 anchovy fillets

1 large, ripe avocado

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper

Juice of 1/2 lemon

1/3-1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil

Add the parsley, chives, tarragon, garlic and anchovies to a food processor. Pulse until herbs are finely chopped and the mixture is smooth, 1-2 minutes.

Add the avocado, salt, pepper and lemon juice, and purée for 1 minute longer. Gradually pour in the olive oil. Blend until fully combined and creamy.

Top with finely chopped chives, and serve with fresh garden vegetables.

 

ROASTED CARROT HUMMUS

This hummus is a beautiful orange-hued blend of smoky, earthy and subtly sweet goodness. If you prefer not to turn your oven on in the heat, feel free to finely grate raw carrots, but the resulting dip will lack a certain depth of flavor. This dip doubles as a surprisingly tasty spread on hearty vegetarian paninis, wraps and even grilled steak sandwiches.

Serves a small crowd

1 pound carrots, peeled

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper

1/4 cup tahini

2 large cloves garlic, minced

1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika

1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon (optional)

Juice of 1 lemon

1/4 cup fresh cilantro (leaves and stems), roughly chopped, plus more leaves for garnish

Heat the oven to 425 degrees.

Spread the carrots on a baking sheet in a single layer. Drizzle with 1 tablespoon olive oil, and season with salt and pepper. Roast for approximately 25 minutes, turning halfway through. Remove from oven, and allow to cool completely.

Add the carrots, remaining olive oil and the rest of the ingredients to a food processor, and blend until thick and creamy. If the hummus is too thick, add up to 1/4 cup cold water to smooth and thin out.

Drizzle with olive oil, and top with cilantro leaves.

 

PEA, MINT AND FETA DIP

This addictive dip is my favorite, and it’s a wonderful way to use your lush fresh mint. It doubles as a tasty topping for grilled chicken breast or mild white fish.

Serves a small crowd

21/2 cups fresh or frozen peas

1/2 cup fresh mint leaves, tightly packed

Juice of 1 lemon

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for garnish

1/2 cup feta cheese, plus more for garnish

1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

Simmer the peas in a small saucepan over medium-high heat until tender, 2 minutes for frozen peas and 5 minutes for fresh. Drain, and cool to room temperature.

Add all the ingredients to a mini food processor, and blend until smooth.

Drizzle with olive oil, and top with a little extra crumbled feta. Serve with sliced cucumber, zucchini spears, breadsticks and baked pita chips.

 

GREEK YOGURT GARDEN PATCH DIP

I could drink this dip, it is that creamy and delicious. It is like a cross between tzaztiki dip and a Greek salad, if that makes sense! It doubles as a chilled soup with the addition of 3-4 cups of vegetable or chicken stock. Prepare this at least an hour in advance to allowing enough time for the dip to chill, the flavors to meld and the vegetables to release their natural juices.

Serves a medium-sized crowd

21/2 cups plain low-fat Greek (or Icelandic) yogurt

1/2 cup buttermilk

2 tablespoons fresh mint leaves, finely minced

2 tablespoons fresh oregano, finely minced

Juice of 1/2 lemon

1/2 cup feta cheese

1/2 cup zucchini, seeded, small dice

1/2 cup cucumber, seeded, small dice

1/2 cup tomato, seeded, small dice

1/4 cup radishes, small dice

2 scallions, thinly sliced

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

In a large, shallow bowl, whisk together the yogurt, buttermilk, herbs, lemon juice and feta. The mixture should be creamy with chunks of feta.

Assemble your diced vegetables in rows on a large cutting board, and season with salt, pepper and olive oil. Sprinkle veggies over the dip in parallel rows (they will start to sink into the dip as you do this). Cover, and refrigerate for a minimum of 1 hour.

Just before serving, drizzle with a little olive oil and sprinkle on some extra feta, if desired. Serve with pita bread, iceberg lettuce wedges, sliced cucumber, sliced zucchini, sliced peppers and tomato wedges.

 

VEGAN KALE AND BROCCOLI PESTO

I was not planning to prepare this dip as vegan. But when I tasted the blend just before the final step — Parmesan cheese — I loved it so much that I felt the addition of cheese would muddle the fresh, clean flavor, not to mention add unnecessary fat and calories. This dip doubles as an addictive sauce (perhaps with a bit more olive oil) for bruschetta, pasta, pizza or shellfish.

Serves a small crowd

2 cups broccoli florets

1/3 cup pine nuts, lightly toasted (pistachios, walnuts or almonds may be substituted)

1 cup fresh basil leaves

1 cup baby kale or spinach

2 large cloves garlic, minced

1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes

1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

Juice of 1/2 lemon (optional)

1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil

Steam the broccoli florets over gently simmering water for 2-3 minutes. Drain, and “shock” in an ice water bath to retain the vibrant green color.

Lightly toast the pine nuts in a toaster oven for 2 minutes (be careful, as they burn quickly).

Add the broccoli, basil, kale and garlic to a food processor, and blend on high for 2 minutes. Add the pine nuts, red pepper flakes, salt and lemon juice. Purée on high, and then gradually blend in the olive oil.

Serve with a sliced, toasted baguette; steamed broccoli florets; and zucchini spears.

Allison Lehane lives in Newbury, where she is a home cook who is passionate about locally sourced ingredients. Her recipes have been inspired by her world travels through her former career as an international home fashion buyer for TJX Corp. Contact her at highroad198@icloud.com.