2 years ago
Thursday, February 5, 2009
Almost any time that David and I go out to dinner, the appetizer conversation goes something like this:
D: You want to get an appetizer? What are you in the mood for?
C: I don't really care what we get, but I am worried about timing. We need to drag this out. I don't want to order the entree until we are actually eating the appetizer. If we are paying a babysitter, we need to make darn well sure that they are asleep before we get home.
D: Okay, don't worry about that. We can go to the bookstore or drive around the block a few times to kill time if we need to. You want the spinach and artichoke dip, don't you?
C: Oh, I know you'd rather get something else. Really, I'm fine with anything but the carpaccio. The eggrolls look good. Bruschetta looks good. The spinach and artichoke dip here is reeeeeaaaaaally good, though.
Waiter: Have we decided on an appetizer yet?
C&D: We'll have the spinach and artichoke dip.
So you might think that it was a no-brainer for me to choose this week's CEIMB recipe for Warm Spinach and Artichoke Dip, but actually, the entire recipe-selection process was very stressful. The pressure! I didn't want to pick The Dud, to have CEIMB people talking in June and saying "every single recipe we've made has been awesome except for the one that freaking Cathy picked in February. Remember that one? Nice." In January, I probably cooked ten recipes out of Ellie's cookbook, The Foods You Crave, in anticipation of having to choose. Finally, I decided that I was going about things the wrong way. I just needed to pick one without testing it first. That way, I could just say "I didn't know either!" if it flopped, and then I'd just be a poor chooser, not a poor chooser with bad taste. I finally settled on the Warm Spinach and Artichoke Dip because (1) I like spinach and artichoke dip (see ¶1); (2) I wanted to go with something that either was, or could easily be made, vegetarian; and (3) I thought that an appetizer seemed fitting during a week when many people might be hosting or attending Superbowl parties.
Well, I am really curious to find out what everybody else thought about this, because we really liked it. It would definitely satisfy any spinach and artichoke dip cravings of mine, and it couldn't be easier to make. You saute an onion and a few cloves of garlic in a pan. Thaw the artichokes and thaw and squeeze out the spinach. I really hate squeezing out spinach. Sometimes you just have to do it though. And then you just throw everything into your food processor (Amanda, was it fun?) -- the artichokes and spinach, half a cup of light sour cream, half a cup of Neufchatel cheese, a couple of tablespoons of mayo, half a cup of mozzarella, and some salt & pepper. Process until smooth. (I think this could be done with a stand mixer, or even by hand, with a few modifications, such as chopping up the artichokes first). Then add in the onions and garlic and pulse until combined. Bake at 375 for 20 minutes or so. Serve with some kind of bread/cracker/chip product, or raw veggies.
We brought this to a Superbowl party that some friends were hosting. I am a sports fan, but for whatever reason I rarely care about the Superbowl (although I do always root for those nice Manning boys when they are playing). I love a good party, though! This was a true "parents of preschoolers" Superbowl party -- it started at 3:30 p.m. and ended shortly after kickoff. I am pretty sure that whoever coined the phrase "it's 5:00 somewhere" had to begin an elaborate bath/book reading/bed ritual at 6:15. Anyway, my real life friends still don't all know about this little blogging habit of mine. It's not a secret, it's just that it's sometimes hard to work into conversation: "See, I make food that other people tell me to make. Then I photograph it, preferably in natural light. Then I make David eat it and provide me with honest feedback, which he is sometimes afraid to do for fear that I will portray him as ungrateful if he doesn't like it. Then I stare at the computer screen and try to think up something interesting to say about the food. And that's pretty much it! It's cut into my celebrity blog reading time -- I didn't even know that Jennifer Garner had the baby until a week after the fact -- but otherwise is perfectly harmless."
So seeing as I'm not "out," once we set out the dip I kind of sat there stressing for a few minutes about how I was going to get a picture. I finally just bit the bullet and said "look, this may sound weird, but I really need to photograph that dip. Would you mind stepping aside?" Everyone was very accomodating -- you can always count on your friends to love you, quirks and all.
I'm sure that Caroline's double-dipping made this somewhat less appetizing for the grownups, but the sight of one of our offspring voluntarily eating something green and mushy just kind of immobilized us, and we couldn't really do anything but gawk and snap pictures for a few minutes there.
Spinach and artichoke dip is kind of the Amy Winehouse of party dips: it's not photogenic so much -- oh, let's just say it; it's kind of a mess -- but it could be perfect for the occasion (depending on the occasion), and it's full of substance. Nobody is ever going to call this a health food, even in its lightened-up form, but you do get lots of veggies and some protein, so it is marginally better for you than, say, bacon on a stick, another beloved appetizer in our circle. Next time I make this I might try Greek yogurt instead of the sour cream to see how that works (actually, I am hoping that you made it that way, Mary Ann -- I know you often make that swap with great results!) Either way, I will make this again.
I really hope that everybody liked this! Thanks for cooking along this week!
WARM SPINACH AND ARTICHOKE DIP, from Ellie Kreiger's The Foods You Crave
1 tablespoon canola oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped (about 1 1/2 cups)
3 cloves garlic
1 (9-ounce) package artichoke hearts, defrosted, rinsed and dried
1 (10-ounce) package frozen chopped spinach, defrosted, excess liquid squeezed out.
1/2 cup reduced fat sour cream
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
1/2 cup (4 ounces) Neufchatel cheese (reduced-fat cream cheese)
2 ounces (about 1/2 cup) shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon fresh ground pepper
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
Heat the oil in a saute pan over medium heat. Add onions and cook stirring occasionally, 4 to 5 minutes. Add garlic and cook an additional 3 to 4 minutes, or until onions are light golden but not browned. Remove from heat and cool.
In the bowl of a food processor combine artichoke hearts, spinach, sour cream, mayonnaise, Neufchatel, mozzarella and salt and pepper. Process until smooth. Add cooled onion-garlic mixture to the food processor and pulse a few times to combine.
Transfer mixture into an 8-inch glass square baking dish or 9-inch glass pie plate which has been lightly sprayed with cooking spray. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes or until heated through. Serve with pita wedges or crudites.