Though it baffles me, I know people are gearing up for Super Bowl watch parties, planning extravagant spreads of snacks and dips. And you can bet artichoke/spinach dip will be on many cocktail tables. It’s everywhere and has been for years. In fact, some might be getting a bit tired of it.
Recipes abound on the internet, but basically it’s fresh spinach, wilted, canned artichoke hearts, a bit of garlic, Parmesan, cream cheese or sour cream or both. And it’s baked and served warm with crackers or tortilla chips. Hellman’s has a recipe that features, you know, their mayo, and the Hidden Valley folks have a recipe that uses ranch dressing mix. I don’t suppose it makes a whole lot of difference which recipe you choose. They’re all quick and easy to do, and like the classic French onion sour cream dip, everyone loves it.
But recently I’ve found some recipes that give that old dog new life. It makes a couple of great vegetarian entrees. Easiest: a baked pasta dish. Cook pasta—rotini or shells or fusilli, something with a bit of heft, in boiling water per directions, but pull it off the stove and quickly drain about three or four minutes shy of the al dente stage. Mix it with a tub of prepared spinach/artichoke dip, cover the whole thing generously with fresh Parmesan or Pecorino, and bake, probably at 350 for 20 minutes. Watch how it browns. Theoretically, the pasta will finish cooking, and the sauce will thicken. A rich but good main dish.
Want to make your own sauce? Here’s a rough idea: Sauté a couple of cloves of minced garlic in olive oil. Add spinach to the skillet, in small bunches, and cook until it is wilted. Stir in one can drained, chopped artichoke hearts—or chop them yourself if need be. Not hard. Stir in 4 oz. cream cheese, softened, ¼ cup sour cream, and 1/3 cup mozzarella. Stir to blend and pile it into a casserole dish. Cover generously with grated Parmesan or Pecorino.
Recently, Jordan, my friend Jean, and I were having a girls’ night supper. I had found a recipe for open-faced sandwiches using this mix. It seems one mom of young kids and picky eaters was trying hard to find something they’d eat. Spinach/artichoke dip on toasted sourdough bread was a hit. We liked it too, and I regret not taking a picture.
1 bunch fresh spinach
½ tsp. salt
1 can chopped artichoke hearts
¼ cup Parmesan
2 Tbsp. mayonnaise
Juice of a lemon
Pepper to taste
2 oz. cream cheese cut into ½” pieces – leave the cheese chilled to do this, and it’s still a mess. Comes as close to ½” as you can and don’t worry about it. It will melt in during cooking.
4 slices sourdough
Just a bit of olive oil
6 slices provolone
Toast the bread and brush one side with olive oil. Set aside.
Bring a little water, maybe ¼ cup, to boil in a large skillet. Add salt, and working in small bunches, wilt the spinach. Drain, cool, and squeeze out all the liquid you can. Then chop the spinach. (You could probably use one package frozen chopped spinach at this point but be sure to drain it well.)
Press water out of artichokes and chop if necessary. Mix spinach and artichokes and then blend in Parmesan, mayonnaise, lemon juice, pepper. Gently stir in cream cheese, taking care not to break up small bits. Add more salt if needed.
Put toast slices on foil-or parchment-lined pan with sides. Pile spinach/artichoke mixture on, spreading to the edges of the toast. Otherwise those edges will burn. Top each toast with provolone, again covering the entire mixture.
Broil until cheese melts and browns in spots. It can get too brown before you know it, so watch carefully. I split this recipe and did it in my toaster oven in two batches. Worked fine. Let slices cool just a bit before serving.
In both recipes, if you like a tang of hotness, you can add dried red pepper to taste. I’m not a fan of spicy.