Thursday, February 5, 2009

CEIMB: Warm Spinach and Artichoke Dip


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
Directions
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.

39 comments:

n.o.e said...

Well, this post was going along quite manageably until you got to that paragraph about photographing the dip. And then I lost it. Omigosh, Cathy, I haven't laughed so hard in front of a screen since Love and Death was in the theaters. I didn't stop laughing until the recipe, and now my sides hurt. Truly.

As for the dip, I'd simply have to have parmesan in there somewhere. Otherwise it looks great, and I might make it for book group when I host in 2 weeks.
Nancy

natalia said...

Yum ! This sounds great ! People look at me with funny faces when I photograph 'my' food too !!Ciao

Jessica said...

Awesome choice and cute blog entry!

What's for Supper? said...

We loved your pick. It was delicious. And your post is hilarious. From taking photos at your party to the Amy W pics. I love it!

Maria said...

Great pick!! I love this dip and I love that this one is healthier! I can't wait to try it...and I will be double dipping:)

Lady Baker said...

mmm...I'll definitely try this, but would love to hire someone to come in and squeeze thawed spinach for me. I sooooo hate the frozen spinach draining/squeezing exercise...just did it the other night to make one of Rob's faves, Greek Ghoulash..then 3 nights prior when I made lasagna. I hear ya, very un-fun cooking task indeed! There's gotta be a better way...

Steph said...

Cathy, I'm so glad I decided to read your post before heading out to my physics class! No one knows I have a blog. It seems like it's hard enough for people to find my taking a million pictures before anyone can eat it weird. Then, when I drill them for feedback like 'why is this good, is it better than the first time, between the two which is better?' it just starts to be annoying. What can I say, I need to know the truth!

Great pick this week! I'm not much of a dipper, but I love things with spinach.

Pamela said...

I lost it when you started talking about the connection between "it's 5:00 somewhere" and the nighttime ritual. So true, my friend...so true! I also could not agree more about getting your $$ worth when the babysitter is involved!! This was a great choice, thanks for picking it.

Mary Ann said...

Cathy- I loved this dip. I did play around with the ingredients but didn't mention it in my post because I am still feeling yucky with the flu and I just wanted to get the post done with. I used fat-free mayo and greek yogurt. I really wasn't thinking when I typed up my post. Thanks for mentioning me though.
Everybody loved this. It was such a great pick.
Thanks again!

Mary Ann said...

Cathy- I loved this dip. I did play around with the ingredients but didn't mention it in my post because I am still feeling yucky with the flu and I just wanted to get the post done with. I used fat-free mayo and greek yogurt. I really wasn't thinking when I typed up my post. Thanks for mentioning me though.
Everybody loved this. It was such a great pick.
Thanks again!

Mary Ann said...

Cathy- I loved this dip. I did play around with the ingredients but didn't mention it in my post because I am still feeling yucky with the flu and I just wanted to get the post done with. I used fat-free mayo and greek yogurt. I really wasn't thinking when I typed up my post. Thanks for mentioning me though.
Everybody loved this. It was such a great pick.
Thanks again!

Sara said...

Great pick Cathy. I can so relate to being the weirdo who needs to photograph their own food at a party. I just do it and make no eye contact afterward.

Peggy said...

Stop blogging and get some sleep Cathy! You can't work all night and blog all day! LOL

Peggy said...

I know I left you another comment earlier - where did it go?

MacDuff said...

This is too funny - yeah, kids eating green food? You HAVE to get photographic evidence!

I loved this recipe, and was psyched all week long to make it. So great choice! And isn't outing yourself the worst feeling ever? I always end up apologizing. "See, oh god, I'm sorry. I've brought in baked goods again. Really sorry. Can you just tell me what you think?"

Natashya said...

Have you been outed then?
I love a good artichoke and spinach dip - where is the bread bowl? ;)
So funny about the pictures. I never photograph when guests are over, no matter how pretty dinner might turn out!

pinkstripes said...

I love spinach and artichoke dip. It's usually what we end up ordering too. And I hate it when the entrees arrive before we are done with the appetizer.

Love the picture of Caroline.

Melissa said...

Oh my gosh, that's hysterical! I hate telling people I have a food blog too. I'm always afraid people will think I'm weird. Unless you have your own food blog, you just can't possibly understand! That's why whenever I make a cake or a dish for company, there's usually only a picture of the entire thing, never a slice or small piece. I'm too scared to take pictures in front of other people! I need to become more bold and just tell everyone!

I think the dip looks awesome, and your little cutie digging in makes it even better!

leanne said...

Great pick. I too would want evidence if my kids ate something green. We all want to know if you were outed.

Jill said...

I definitely will try this dip. But the best part of your post was about how your real-life friends don't know about your blog. I feel SO much better. I told some people and I'm sorry I did. They totally think I'm weird and they never mention it!

Joanne said...

Loved the dip. Good pick.

Cathy said...

LOL! You all are killing me! I'm so glad it's not just me! I have also (1) snapped food pictures in public and then avoided eye contact, and (2) preemptively apologized for my behavior and then proceeded to grill my friends about the food anyway. To answer your question, Leanne, I am out the way that Clay Aiken was before the People magazine cover: I have not announced it in a public forum, but if you are paying any attention whatsoever you can probably figure it out.

Aggie said...

1. I want to sit at that table, drink that beer and eat the chips and spin dip.
2. Cracking up about your conversation...we always make sure to get home after bed time. And usually end up getting spin dip too.
3. Your little girl dipping cracked me up! Love it!
4. And great analogy to Amy Winehouse!!!

Can't wait to try this! I can't believe I still don't have her cookbook, going to order it on Amazon right now!!

Leslie said...

Thanks for picking a winner for us this week! I loved the bit about not that many people knowing you blog. I have only told M and I don't think he gets it though he is certainly indulgent when I want to bake things repeatedly. I don't think my friends would understand, and they already think I'm weird.

Liz said...

Your blog posts consistently crack me up! And I am totally going to surprise my honey by making this--spinach and artichoke dip is his absolute fave.

Pam said...

Your posts always make me smile. There is something so tasty about spinach artichoke dip.

Girl Japan said...

Oh this looks fabulous.. I love spinach and try to find ways to incorporate the lovely greens..

Your post made me laugh!

Gabi said...

Sorry I begged out of the dip this week- I promise to make it another time though - when I don't have a huge vat of storebought spinach artichoke dip sitting in my fridge already. It was a great choice and sounds like it was a hit all around.
xo

Audrey said...

Oh, no, in June I'm going to be saying "I wish I had joined that Ellie thing before that GLORIOUS week when Cathy picked this dip." The funny thing is, I HATE spinach as a cooked vegetable, but I love spinach in things. I don't like to eat steamed artichokes, or much of anything with artichokes, except for this dip. I haven't had this one, but I love its full fat, yummy cheesy cousin. So this is all good. As for the weird habits associated with in-the-closet food blogging, no one why I do those weird things. Audrey isn't even my real name...

I just hope I do as good a job when I get to pick for TWD in, oh, four or five years.

Cooking for Comfort by Jennifer said...

I am cracking up at the double dipping....

I see nothing wrong with driving around the block to kill time. Get your money's worth!

This dip looks fantastic!

Jessica said...

Yummy, yummy recipe. I think that you made a great choice. I love spinach artichoke dip and I have convinced myself that, if it's not healthy per se, at least I'm getting my greens in.
My real life friends have no idea about my blogging either. I'm not sure why I don't tell them . . . but I know that I'm happy in the "blogging" closet.

Sweet as Coco said...

This looks good! I love the Siera Nevada in the background! Perfect combo, yum! :)

Bridgett said...

My hubby and I had a rare night out this past Saturday, so after a relaxing evening we come home to wide-awake children playing wii with the babysitter. I should have deducted from her payment so if you can get your babysitter to get yours to bed, then send her my way!
I tried this recipe for a ladies lunch I held for Mother's day last year. I didn't tell anyone that it was a lower-fat recipe and everyone gobbled it up. I was very pleased with it as well, although I agree, it isn't all that photogenic!!

The Blonde Duck said...

Cathy, oh Cathy: Have you been to the new Pond?

Check it out: www.aduckinherpond.com.

Dianne said...

Loved this recipe - it was a big hit with our dinner guests!...the one addition I made was to sprinkle some mozzarella and grated parm on the top before baking...it gave it a little brown top - which added to the yummyness. I debated a little sprinkle of bread crumbs....but it was super yummy and we will definitely be making it again! Thanks!

Carolina Belle said...

Cathy, I LOVE spinach artichoke dip, and I am totally going to make yours for R's birthday party. :)

Proud Italian Cook said...

I'm a spinach and artichoke person too, I'll have to try this version, much more healthier, not nat all like Amy Winehouse!

dharmagirl said...

so funny, cathy. you know how to captivate your readers (as well as eaters:)

and the dip sounds marvelous...

The Talley's said...

So glad I'm not the only one!!

Thanks for choosing this recipe. I just joined CEiMB, but I plan to make this for a Baby Shower this Friday.

--Alyssa/talleyfam.blogspot.com

 
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