Monday, November 10, 2008

Hot Spinach-Artichoke Dip

Spinach-Artichoke Dip, hot from the oven, on a sliver of sweet red bell pepper. Yummy!

Always a holiday favorite, and one of those foods that counts high on the list of Too Good to be Allowed, hot spinach dip is a classic. I always say that this many calories should not be allowed in so small a space at the same time-- especially how I make it, with lots of extra ooey, gooey, cheese. I compensate for this caloric density by adding a LOT of spinach, to soothe my conscience at least a little bit. I also like mine spicy, so I use a lot of fresh garlic, black pepper, and red pepper flakes. Pow!

There are about as many ways to make this dip as there are cooks who lovingly prepare it. Because I was first introduced to the vast category that is spinach dips by my dear friend Irene, and hers featured artichokes, I prefer marinated artichoke hearts in mine. I have also been known to add generous dollops of coarsely chopped capers, olive tapenades, or even (heavens) chopped sun-dried tomatoes. Use what you have on hand, and have fun with it! The cheeses can be varied to glorious effect-- I love to use pecorino romano when I have some, and I've even put feta in this! Zow, tangy. If you use a sharp goat's cheese, I recommend you leave out the sour cream. Most often, I double this recipe and save half in the freezer for impromptu visitors or last-minute potlucks. Bon appetit!

Hot Spinach-Artichoke Dip
  • 8 oz. cream cheese, softened
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 1 t. sea salt
  • 1/4 t. black pepper, finely ground
  • 2 T. quality mayonnaise
  • 2 T. sour cream
  • 1/4 c. ricotta cheese

  • 3 whole artichoke hearts, marinated in oil (or 12 quarters, or 3/4 c. chopped)
  • 1 1/2 c. wilted fresh spinach (about 10 oz. of frozen chopped spinach, thawed and drained)
  • 1 c. shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 1/2 c. shredded Parmesan cheese, plus a little for garnish if desired.
  • 1/4 t. red pepper flakes, optional
Preheat oven to 400F.

Soften cream cheese in microwave if necessary, 30 sec. or so. Beat till smooth and fluffy in a large bowl. Set aside.

Wilt spinach in large skillet over medium-high heat with a tiny drizzle of olive oil; measure after cooking until you have one-and-a-half cups' worth. (This is a LOT of fresh spinach! The easiest way to measure is to take note of the weight of your raw spinach and go by that instead.)

Next, in your food processor, puree garlic cloves with salt, pepper, mayo, and sour cream till smooth. Add this mixture and the ricotta cheese to the cream cheese; beat well till smooth and well-combined.

Now, in your recently vacated food processor (no need to wash between uses since its all ending up in the same pot in a few minutes), process the wilted spinach, in batches if necessary. (If using frozen pre-chopped spinach, skip this step, but make sure its thawed and drained before adding it to the cheese mixture.) Add spinach to cream cheese mixture, and mix well.

At this point, its a good idea to sample it and adjust for seasoning. You may find you need more or less salt to taste, but keep in mind what hits you very hard here in the form of raw, sharp garlic will be mellowed considerably by its journey through the hot oven. (If you are freezing some for later, it becomes even more mild, and I have been known to bolster a preserved batch with an extra helping of garlic just before baking.) Add salt and pepper to taste, if necessary, and add your red pepper flakes at this point if you're using them.

Finally, stir in your shredded cheeses. Now pour the whole mess into a glass baking dish (I prefer glass, but metal is fine-- just watch it more closely for scorching towards the end of the cooking time).
You can garnish this with more Parmesan for a pretty crust if you like, but I usually end up stirring mine once its out of the oven. Your results may vary, and the burned cheese crust remains the portion that my tasters fight over! Bake for 20-30 minutes at 400F, till bubbly, hot throughout, and golden around the edges.

Fresh out of the oven, bubbly and golden.

You really don't want to know the nutrition information on this one, so I'll put it this way: As far as carbohydrates go, this is moderate, as the dairy does add up. You won't be able to stop at 1/4 c. of this stuff if you're anything like me. There's lots of protein here, and tons of beneficial nutrients from the spinach. I won't bother giving you a calorie count either. We normally serve this with raw vegetable crudites (celery, red bell pepper, cucumbers, etc.) and... I'm so ashamed to admit it... pork rinds. If company is sharing or I'm taking this to a party, I'll bring a crusty artisanal sourdough baguette and slice it very thin, served hot with the dip. My family is perfectly happy to finish a full recipe of this stuff with veggies for dipping as a stand-alone meal. Ah, the holidays. Just make sure you don't make it when you're alone in the house-- it didnt' get the title "Infamous" for nothing.

When I freeze mine, I put it straight into the container I'll be baking it in and double bag it, because, as much as I love it, I don't want the entire contents of my freezer to be contaminated by its extremely potent garlicky goodness. Be careful what you set it on, too! Frozen meat or veggies, sure! Ice cream or butter? Not so much! (Just a word of caution born from regretful experience!)

1 comment:

Donna said...

Your recipes look so great! I'll be trying a bunch for sure. :)

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