Spinach Artichoke Dip

  • Posted by: Tomato Head, Market Square Manager • September 23rd, 2017

The artichoke is good bud.

Like capers and Brussels sprouts, the part of the artichoke that we eat is the yet-to-flower bud of the plant – that will make perfect sense if you’ll pick up an artichoke and take a look.  In this case the plant in question is a member of the thistle family which has other edible branches including the cardoon whose stalk has a very artichoke-like flavor.  I’m told that the thistles that pop up in my yard from time to time are edible, too, and though I’m not averse to back yard foraging (I love dandelion), I can’t shake the image of the common garden thistle as a pain in the yard.

But artichokes are a favorite in our house in any form from the feast nights of whole globe artichokes and lots of melted butter to decadent holiday casseroles of artichoke, cheese, and cream, and little more cream.  There’s a lot of fun to be had in the ritual of the whole bud, the fun of being around a table with a bunch of folks all scraping fat drenched leaves for a small bite of veggie flesh feels communal somehow – a feeling that always seems more intense at home when we eat with our hands.  Of course when the butter starts to run down the chin the atmosphere turns decadent or erotic or downright silly depending on the company.

Artichokes bring a lot of pleasure.

And that’s especially true when we indulge ourselves in the lusty heart of the globe where all the sensuality of the artichoke lives in dense satisfaction.  Just beneath the choke, a prickly concentration of decidedly unpleasant thistle bits, the heart is a meaty bite of everything good including a great concentration of cynarin, a polyphenolic compound that creates a unique sensation in the mouth, one that, like love, makes everything tasted after it seem a little sweeter.

Cynarin can be a challenge if you’re having a snit about wine-pairing, but mostly it’s a positive addition to the table.  Generally speaking, we like sweet things.  And that little bit of food magic, combined with the immense satisfaction of biting into the fleshy artichoke heart, is what endows spinach artichoke dip with its ever potent popularity.

The artichoke arouses the sense of sweetness in rich dairy and helps diminish any residual bitterness in the spinach all while adding substance to each nibble.  That’s all certainly true in our recipe, but we always like to put a little spark in our relationships – and here that spark is one of our favorite stimulants – jalapeno.  In addition to adding little grins from endorphin rush, the pepper tickles the taste buds and accentuates all of the flavor sensations, making them livelier, even lighter on the tongue.  And, as the kids might say, that makes for a dish that’s lit.

Tomato Head’s Spinach and Artichoke Dip

1.5 cup Monterey Jack Cheese, shredded

Yummy!

1.5 cup Parmesan Cheese, shredded

¾ cup Mayonnaise

¾ cup Sour Cream

2 cups Canned Artichoke Hearts, drained and chopped

3 packed cups Fresh Spinach, chopped

1-2 TBL Jalapeno, chopped (optional)

½ tsp Garlic Powder

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.

Mix all ingredients in a medium bowl. Transfer mixture to a 9-inch pie plate, and bake for 15 – 20 minutes, until the cheese has melted and the dip is bubbling slightly.

Serve immediately with pita bread or pita crisps.

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