Spinach and artichoke dip is a classic appetizer-time offering; you can even acquire it ready-made. It’s an appealing alternative to beany, cheesy, burger-filled, scoop-worthy goo found on the Big Game Day snack table. Not, mind you, that this dip with its hearty portions of cream, cheddar cheese, and sour cream will qualify as a serving of vegetables even if you eat it all.
So here comes February, and we are enjoying the fruits (and vegetables) of our summer labor stashed in the freezer. Somehow, we always manage to eat all the spinach we grow fresh from the garden, so there is never any for the freezer. The cut and come again, and again, and again chard, on the other hand kept spurting new deep green leaves and gloriously colored stalks. The variety called Bright Lights is a favorite of mine. I plant it in April, and it is one of the last things to give up the ghost in October, and it is beautiful all the time.
To freeze it, I usually separate the green leafy part from the stems, which I cut into two to three inch lengths, blanch and freeze. The leaves I chop coarsely and barely wilt before packing in zip-closing bags. Depending on what I am making for supper, the stems and leaves may reunite (as in soup) or go their separate ways as in this dip for which I used chard in place of spinach. I suppose you could use tender kale or any dark green leafy vegetable you like in this recipe.
If you use frozen spinach, make sure to squeeze as much liquid out of it as you can before adding it to the dip, or plan on cooking it until very little liquid runs out. If you start with fresh spinach or other greens you will have to cook them dry as well. It is kind to your family and guests if you chop the greens quite small. Nobody will appreciate tendrils of spinach or chard trailing from their chip or cracker.
Your best artichoke choice is the canned one without oil or dressing. But use what you have; drain them well if they have an oil and vinegar dressing, and chop them well, too.
To season this dip, you can think about using herbs like parsley, cilantro, dill, chives; or you can use curry; or take it in a capsicum -warmed direction. I started with garlic and shallots, added the vegetables and cheeses, then dusted it with chipoltle powder, just enough to add a pleasant warmth to the richness of the dip.
Personally, I prefer this dip served a little warm, but you can serve it at room temperature. I love those little bowl shaped corn chip scoops. If you are having an elegant party, consider spooning some of the dip into the little scoops, garnishing with chopped parsley or cilantro, and passing them as individual appetizers.
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2-3 cloves of garlic or shallots chopped finely
- 1 ½ cups blanched or frozen and thawed spinach or chard, chopped
- 1 ½ cups artichoke hearts, chopped
- 8 ounces or 1 cup cream cheese
- 4 ounces or ½ cup grated cheddar
- ¼ cup sour cream or thick yogurt
- ¼ cup grated parmesan
- Herbs, spices, salt and pepper to taste
- Sauté the garlic and/or shallots in a heavy pan the olive oil briefly, about three minutes, over a moderate heat.
- Add the spinach or chard and cook for about five minutes until there is no liquid in the pan.
- Add the artichoke hearts and mix well with the greens.
- Chunk up the cream cheese and add to the pan, along with the grated cheddar, sour cream or yogurt, and parmesan. Blend well.
- Add seasonings, taste, and adjust seasonings.
- Serve warm or at room temperature with vegetables, crackers or chips.