Three Guesses. What are the most-requested restaurant recipes for my column in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch? Mac 'n 'cheese? Right. Salad dressing? That too. Bread pudding? Absolutely. (And oh man, St. Louisans do love their bread pudding. The best I've tasted so far? The Apple Rum Raisin Breading Pudding from Cicero's in the Delmar Loop.)
But after those top three? The next most-requested recipe is for spinach and artichoke dip, what the restaurants call "spin dip". I've written about four different recipes in the four years I've written the column. (Four years! Really! Best yet? It's still fun! I.Digress.) People love-love-love their spin dip!
This recipe for spinach and artichoke casserole is "half spin dip" and "half steakhouse creamed spinach" – but without the muck of heavy cheese and goopy mayonnaise. It's all about the spinach, cloaked in dreamy-creaminess but without being heavy or cloying, thanks to a bright touch of lemon. I adore it! That said, it may be healthy spinach but like all restaurant spin dips, it's hardly "diet food" – moderation is a good idea!
RECIPE for CREAMY SPINACH WITH ARTICHOKES
Time to table: 1-1/4 hour
Makes about 4 cups plus artichokes, enough to serve 16 at a large multi-course meal like Easter or Thanksgiving but otherwise 8
Large pot with 3 inches water
1 tablespoon table salt
2 pounds frozen spinach
8 ounces low-fat Neufchatel cream cheese, room temperature
4 tablespoons butter, melted
2 tablespoons lemon juice
Salt & pepper to taste
Seasoned salt (such as Lawry's) to taste
Several grinds fresh nutmeg
24 ounces canned artichokes, drained
Set oven to 350F/175C.
Cook the spinach. Bring the water and salt to a boil, stirring occasionally until salt dissolves. Drop in the spinach, make sure it's all submerged. Bring back to a boil and cook for about 5 minutes until spinach tastes "done" but is still bright green. Strain through a colander, pressing out much of the liquid with the back of a spoon.
Mix the cream cheese mixture. Meanwhile, thoroughly mix remaining ingredients (except artichokes), then stir in drained spinach. Spread in an oven-safe casserole dish. Insert artichokes, stem sides up and at an angle, into the spinach mixture.
Bake. Cover with foil, punch a few holes in the foil with the tip of a knife. Bake for 45 minutes or until creamy and bubbly. Serve hot.
MAKE-AHEAD TIPS Mix everything the day before or morning of and refrigerate. Bring back to room temperature for at least an hour. Bake at 350F/175C for 45 - 60 minutes. If there's no time to bring to room temperature, I'd allow about 90 minutes to bake.
ALANNA's TIPS & KITCHEN NOTES
The cookbook specifies placing the artichokes stem-side up. At first, I figured that was to avoid burning the more delicate leaves. But really? Since the casserole dish is covered with foil, I think there's small risk of the leaves burning.
I played a bit with the leftovers, adding strips of roasted red pepper. It was quite pretty, nice for Christmas, say. Still, I love the spare simplicity of just the creamy spinach studded with artichokes.
Don't squeeze the spinach totally-totally dry, you want the hot spinach casserole to be wet and creamy, not a thick, dense lump. If the mixture is a little heavy, stir in some buttermilk to loosen the spinach, either up front or just out of the oven. You'll likely need to put it back in the oven for a few minutes to heat back up. If appearance is critical, you can even pull the artichokes out, stir in the buttermilk, then put the artichokes back again, no one will even notice.
I was going to use two 15-ounce cans of artichokes but that seemed a bit much. One can would do, that's about ten artichokes.
Rewarms beautifully in the microwave, I suspect you could even use the microwave rather than the oven to heat this for the table – that could be handy for a big meal where oven space is always an issue.
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MORE RECIPE IDEAS FOR EASTER~ Bourbon-Glazed Roasted Carrots ~
~ Easy-Easy Slow Cooker Honey Carrots ~
~Greek Spinach-Asparagus-Potato Gratin (Spinaki me Sparaggia Orgraten) ~
~ more spinach recipes ~
~ more artichoke recipes ~
from A Veggie Venture
~ Moroccan Onions ~
~ Those Pink Potatoes ~
~ Tourlou Tourlou (Greek Baked Vegetables) ~
~ more Easter recipes ~
from Kitchen Parade, my food column
famous asparagus-to-zucchini Alphabet of Vegetables.
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