There is football food, Downton Abbey food, girl’s weekend food, Tortuga food, Kentucky Derby food, Boston marathon food, holiday food, weekend food, Game of Thrones final season premiere and, well, without question, the list of celebratory foods is endless. But sometimes, just sometimes, and it ain’t often, these foods are prepared simply because we want them. Because we’re too tired or lazy to prepare a proper dinner. Or because we positively have to have them. In my case, last night’s indulgence happened due to an unquenchable craving for a cheesy, bubbly spinach artichoke dip and no amount of salad and grilled skinless, boneless breast of chicken was gonna cut it. No, ma’am. I wanted dairy and lots of it. Don’t you like the roasted tomatoes on top? I wanted to jack this dish up but, yeah, I talked myself into thinking this dip was not all that wicked. Complete justification on my part. I’m not even going to continue explaining my reasoning behind it. Only know when the craving hits or the party pops up you have the ultimate dish at hand. It’s a beast and one you’ll love.
Y’all know how easy this hot dip is to prepare and how well it travels. I made a few additions to this classic appetizer; kind of brought it up to speed. Packed with flavor, this crazy rich dip can be quickly assembled a day in advance then baked off at your leisure. Easily adaptable, the cheeses called for in the recipe can be substituted for other cheeses such as brie, cheddar or provolone. I stay away from smoked cheeses as I don’t care for a smoked flavor in this particular dish. If you feel as I do then pay close attention to the bagged, shredded cheese blend you decide upon. Quite a few of them contain smoked provolone. Just a head’s up. I love baking this dip in a cast iron skillet. It looks so pretty served in the same skillet with a pristine linen hand towel draped over the handle. I store any leftovers right in the skillet or casserole dish in which the dip was baked then, to reheat any leftovers, I merely toss the plastic wrap covering it and pop the leftovers into a 350° for 15 or 20 minutes. All my baking dishes are refrigerator to oven safe. If your baking dish is not, you will need to bring the leftovers to room temperature prior to reheating. Any ripe tomatoes you may have on hand are fine to use. I happened to have a box of perfectly ripe Campari tomatoes but only because Publix had a BOGO going on. I have to say they were delicious and the perfect size. The bright tomatoes cut through the richness of all the cheeses making a most lovely mouthful. I use canned, quartered artichoke hearts as they have more flavor than frozen. The dip can be served with crostini, crackers or crudite. I bought a bag of parmesan-garlic baked bread rounds from the bakery section of the grocery rather than cut and bake my own crostini. Call me lazy. I don’t care. Happy Game of Thrones!
Spinach & Artichoke Dip
- 16 ounces cream cheese, softened
- 3/4 cup mayonnaise
- 15 ounces frozen, chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
- 4 cloves garlic, finely grated
- 3/4 cup shredded parmesan cheese
- 1 cup shredded Italian blend cheeses, I use Publix brand 6 cheeses
- 1/2 cup finely chopped fresh basil
- 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes, optional
- 1 14-ounce can quartered artichoke hearts, rinsed, all excess juices drained, roughly chopped
- salt and pepper to taste
- 3/4 pound tomatoes, about 7-8 Campari tomatoes, halved from stem end to bottom
- 1/2 cup shredded mozzarella
- Pre-heat oven to 375° and cover a 10-inch cast iron skillet or 2.5 quart casserole with non-stick spray. Set aside.
- In a large bowl, beat cream cheese until fluffy.
- Add mayonnaise, spinach and garlic and mix well.
- Add parmesan and Italian blend cheeses, basil and red pepper flakes and mix well.
- Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper to taste.
- Add artichoke hearts and gently stir into mixture until completely combined.
- Transfer to skillet or baking dish and spread to completely cover bottom.
- Place tomatoes cut side down on top of dip. Scatter shredded mozzarella evenly over top.
- Bake for 45-60 minutes or until golden and bubbly. This will depend on the size of your casserole dish. If the dish is baked through but needs color on top, broil for 4-5 minutes. Keep a close eye on the oven as it can quickly burn if left too long.
- Allow to cool for 10 minutes prior to serving.