Artisan Artichoke dip

The 50 Vegetable Challenge originated as a dare to myself to try new things.  Artichoke wasn’t actually new to me at the time I crafted the list, but I included it anyway because I thought it must be way more versatile than its usual purpose–adding a briny tang which offsets the strong parmesan and garlic flavors in artichoke dip. (Sometimes spinach is also added, but only as token nutrition. Cooked spinach has no texture, and the only flavor it adds is a hint of unneeded bitterness.)

I’d like to say that I did indeed venture out and discover some heretofore unknown dish that showcases the artichoke’s unlimited potential, but I didn’t. First of all, raw artichokes are a whole lot of headache for a little bit of heart. Secondly, canned or bottled artichoke hearts are about $4 apiece, and a little goes a long way. It doesn’t make a lot of sense to me to open an entire jar if you’re only going to use a couple.

Therefore, my challenge to myself was to improve upon my own recipe for artichoke dip. I developed my original version after reviewing several online recipes and trying a few variations, most of which I felt were unnecessarily complicated. You really only need cream cheese, parmesan cheese, artichokes, and garlic. My measurements were also uncomplicated–a brick of cream cheese, a 5-6 oz package of shredded parmesan, a can of artichokes, and a heaping spoonful of garlic. (Take the amount you think you need, double it, then add a little more. Put in so much garlic you will have dragon breath for a week.)

But that’s it–4 ingredients and you’re done. Do not be deceived by recipes which call for mayonnaise. It’s unnecessary and actually makes your dip separate. Mayo is just an egg white suspension in oil. The egg white doesn’t contribute any flavor, and the oil just creates a puddle of grease when heated because it won’t bond to the cheese. Trust me–skip the mayo entirely, and you’ll be much happier with the result.

Now, my original recipe is delicioso. You can stick with that tried-and-true mix and always be the hit of the party. However, I did try some pre-packaged artichoke dip that had a little different flavor, and it got me thinking back to those other recipes I’d cribbed from years before. Some of them had interesting seasonings, like red pepper flakes or paprika. I thought I could jazz mine up a bit.

The new recipe borrows heavily from other cooks’ attempts to recreate the flavors of Boursin or Alouette spreadable cheese. I’m not actually a huge fan of soft cheeses in general, but I do love cooking with them mainly because they’re so well seasoned. I thought if I could duplicate that blend out of my spice rack instead of paying a premium for the pre-packaged versions, I’d be in heaven. I was right. Without further ado, here is my recipe for Artisan Artichoke Dip:

1 brick of cream cheese (8 oz)

1 package of parmesan cheese (5-6 oz)

1 can artichoke hearts (quartered)

1 Tbl minced garlic

1 tsp dried dill

1/2 tsp dried marjoram

1/2 tsp basil

1/2 tsp chives

1/2 tsp black pepper (ground)

1/4 tsp dried thyme

1 Tbl dried parsley

1/2 tsp red pepper flakes or cayenne pepper (optional)

Mix all ingredients in a stand mixer until thoroughly combined. Spread in greased glass baking dish and bake at 350 until golden brown and bubbling. Serve with tortilla chips, pita chips, toast, baguettes, etc. Uncooked dip freezes beautifully, and leftover refrigerated dip makes a great sandwich spread.

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