Thursday, January 8, 2015

Spinach Artichoke Dip Great for any Occasion

I have had many forms of a spinach and artichoke dip over the years. Long ago, I had one with little tiny shrimp mixed in, and other combinations along the way. I love spinach. I love artichokes. Match made in heaven. And then add in cheese and a miracle happens.

Despite never having made this, one would think that I'd have had some kind of idea for making it, at least. But no. Somehow that idea completely passed me by. When my sister-in-law was visiting before the Christmas Holidays began, discussing what fine appetizers to have for our Christmas Eve celebration, she asked about using artichokes. She had a very large jar of little baby artichokes she had gotten at one of the large stores that sell these things in bigger than usual quantities. I have lots of recipes using artichoke hearts. She asked about a dip?
Spinach Artichoke Dip

And there I sat, thinking, "Why in the world, do I not even have a clue what to use for an artichoke dip?" So we did what it seems has become the norm. We whipped out our smart phones and Googled it!

Between us, and about 12 or more different recipes, I began compiling what I considered to be all the things a good artichoke dip might have. Once reading the recipes, it is easy to then imagine how this or that ingredient will work with others. What ingredients are not among my favorites? Shrimp were out, since having discovered an allergy to shellfish. For me, spinach was a definite yes, but..... My husband is not too keen on spinach. He will eat the Spinach Dip using the package of dried vegetable soup mix. But he might object to a hot dip with spinach. I left he spinach out. Scallions sounded like a fine idea, as did the cans of green chiles. Eggs seemed completely unnecessary. Large onions would be out, as we are not so keen on heavy onion flavor. I didn't want long stringy, cheesy strands when trying to dip, so mozzarella was out. Thickening the dip with a butter and flour roux also seemed a total waste of time; busy-work at a time when that's the last thing we need. 
Artichoke Dip

Ultimately I decided on using cream cheese and some mayonnaise and Parmesan. I used a splash of lemon juice and 2 cups of the artichokes. I wanted lots of artichoke flavor in every bite. I made the dip for Christmas Eve. My sister-in-law and I ate the dip with various types of crackers. It was good. My husband never even tried it, even without the spinach. He loves artichokes; guess there were too many other tempting things for him. But somehow, we were not wowed with the dip. I did really wish for spinach in it. I decided to try it again for New Year's Eve, using spinach. 

Then, since we had quite a bit of leftovers, and a lot of the Artichoke Dip left, I took it with us Christmas Day, to reheat and serve for the snack portion of the day. I totally forgot to take crackers. My other sister-in-law said no problem, they had plenty. However, the first thing to hand were plain tortilla chips. I used a chip and took a bite. OMG. What a difference. With the chips, the dip was absolutely splendid. Everything I had hoped for. All the difference in the world, just with chips instead of crackers. One of the teenaged grand-neices came to me, put her hand on my shoulder and exclaimed that this Artichoke Dip was the best - thing - EVER!

Spinach Artichoke Dip on a Pita Cracker
I did make it again for New Year's Eve, with the spinach added in. My sister-in-law brought tortilla chips. We feasted, and all was well. Once using the tortilla chips, the dip made with or without the spinach is excellent. Creamy and of perfect consistency. I used plenty of cheese but not so much as to be excessive. I will be making this again and again.

If desired, and you love shrimp, drain and rinse one can of tiny shrimp and add this to the mixture. Nothing else in the recipe needs change. Keep the spinach or leave it out, as you wish. 

MAKE AHEAD: If time is at a premium, mix together all the ingredients except the artichoke hearts and spinach; prep those separately and store each of these  things (creamy mixture, spinach, chopped artichokes) in their own containers, refrigerated for up to 3 days. When ready to make the dip, simply stir all the ingredients together and pour them into a greased casserole dish and bake. My reasoning for the separate containers is that I did not want the mixture to become watery while mixed in the fridge. If left separate, the artichokes or the spinach can always be drained more, this way, if needed.

Spinach Artichoke Dip

makes about 5 - 6 cups

Spinach Artichoke Dip
1 (8-ounce) block cream cheese, room temperature
1 cup mayonnaise
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup minced scallions
1 1/2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 (4-ounce) can mild green chiles
1 - 2 tablespoons Worcestershire
2 cups chopped artichoke hearts
1 (10-ounce) package frozen chopped spinach, optional

Preheat oven to 375 degrees (350 on Convection Bake). Grease an 8 x 8-inch, 9 x 9-inch or similar sized round oven safe casserole with non-stick spray and set aside. 

Drain and chop the artichoke hearts, until they make 2 cups; set aside. Completely thaw the spinach, and using hands, squeeze it as dry as possible. At this point I like to chop it a little finer, even if you have used pre-chopped spinach. Set this aside. In a bowl, preferably with a hand mixer, beat together the first 7 ingredients until creamy. With a spatula, mix in the prepared artichokes and spinach. Pour into the prepared casserole. If desired sprinkle a little more grated Parmesan over the top. This yields a more golden top after baking. Bake the casserole for 35 to 40 minutes, or until it is bubbly and golden on top. Serve hot or warm with tortilla chips, baguette slices, pita chips or crackers. 

***If you happen to have leftovers of this dip, I can truly say it makes an excellent filling for an omelet, and a great spread on your morning bagel.

My passion is to teach people how to create a harmony of flavors with their cooking, and help pass along my love and joy of food, both simple and exotic, plain or fancy. I continue my journey in ethnic and domestic cuisines, trying new things weekly. I would love to hear from you, to help me continue my journey to explore diverse culinary experiences and hopefully to start you on a journey of your own. Join me at A Harmony of Flavors Website and Marketplace, Tumblr, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.