Hummus is now "appetizer history" for me--right along with my signature "Old School" appetizer, Huntsman cheese (Double Gloucester & Stilton) & crackers.
Let me introduce you to the new "kid on the appetizer block": "Enlightened" Warm Spinach-Artichoke Dip. Bet you'll want to serve it at your next book club, potluck or dinner party.
And here's an even better idea. Why not serve it with that Skinny Watermelon Margarita I keep raving about? Think about adding some strawberries or pineapple while you're blending up the fruit in your VitaMix, too.
The Artichoke Appetizer Back-Story
Three weeks ago I snagged a copy of Chloe's Kitchen right off the "New Arrival" book shelf at my public library.
What was the single recipe that piqued my interest? Chloe's "Warm Spinach-Artichoke Dip". I knew I could easily ditch the oil & make it PBNO (plant-based no-oil). Piece of cake!
So last Friday when my sister called to tell me that she just made this for a dinner party, I was all ears. Hey, I didn't even know that she had a copy of Chloe's Kitchen. It's kind of crazy how much alike we are.
When my sister recommends a recipe, I listen. She's an awesome cook, but super picky. A lot more picky than I am. If she likes a recipe, you know it's got to be good. And she was planning to serve Chloe's dip to some very conventional omnivore guests--who are even more picky than she is.
Her Sneaky Secret Plan: She wasn't going to say a word about the dip (staying mum about the nutritional yeast, for sure!) until after the meal--and as a decoy she even topped it with some parmesan shavings. No need to rock the boat.
The Verdict? Her guests LOVED the dip. And they also loved the rest of her gourmet plant-based menu. She kept mum about the ingredients until the meal was enthusiastically gobbled up. You have to know your audience--and sometimes it's best to just keep your mouth shut.
Stay tuned for more of my sister's dinner party menu, after I give it a test run.
- Farro Salad with Grilled Eggplant, Tomatoes, & Onion with a Sherry Vinaigrette. She raved about this one!
- Roasted Spicy Red Pepper Cashew Cream over Vegan Mushroom Ravioli (adapted from HGK's Poblana Cashew Cream) Another hit, she tells me.
Maybe Not-As-Pretty-As-Chloe's, But So Delicious
The Dip That Keeps on Giving - Beyond the Dinner Party
So, on Sunday I tried my hand at Chloe's Dip.
I couldn't post it in good conscience before trying it out on myself, right?
This dip exceeded my expectations. It's chunky, cheesy, creamy, & spiced with just enough of a red pepper kick. And it's actually healthy.
Back in the 1970's & 1980's warm artichoke & spinach dips were all the rage. Anyone remember? I made them all the time. Well, not all the time. Boy, we were so clueless back then about what we were gobbling down.
- 1 cup of Hellman's mayonnaise
- 1 cup of Parmesan cheese
- Knorr's salty dried vegetable soup mix
- 1 cup of sour cream
- A couple jars of oily marinated artichoke hearts
- Thawed frozen spinach squeezed dry.
The Dip That Keeps on Giving:
- It's even better the next day. The Lab Rat & I enjoyed Monday night hors d'oevres with our left-overs
- My sister spread it on a pita for lunch
- I spread it on thin pumpernickel, topped with baked tofu & tomatoes for lunch
- It would be amazing as a pizza topping, instead of tomato sauce. Think of that cheesy taste. Yum.
- It would be fabulous warmed & mixed into pasta, or layered into a lasagna.
- A perfect topping for bruscetta
- A perfect spread for a grilled portobello sandwich
- Mix it into scrambled tofu for breakfast
Meet Your New Favorite Company Appetizer - "Enlightened" Warm Spinach-Artichoke DIp
Serves 8 to 10
Print the recipe on one page, here.
- 1 large sweet onion, roughly chopped
- 3 cloves of garlic, chopped
- 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper, optional (I added a few shakes more)
- 5 ounces of baby spinach, rinsed (you could even use a little more)
- 1 14-ounce package of soft tofu, drained. (used NaSoya Silken)
- 1/2 cup of nutritional yeast flakes (buy bulk at Whole Foods)
- 2 tablespoons of fresh lemon juice
- 1/4 cup of fresh basil, roughly chopped
- 1/2-1 teaspoon of sea salt (to taste) (Chloe's uses 1 1/2 tsp.)
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 14 to 21 ounces of frozen or canned artichoke hearts, drained, or thawed. (Note: I used 1 1/2 14 oz. cans of artichoke hearts for a chunkier dip)
- Hearty whole grain thinly sliced rye or pumpernickel bread or crackers
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Prepare a 1-quart baking dish. No need to grease.
2. Heat up a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add onions, to saute. Lower the heat a little, & cover the skillet, and let the onions soften for about 5-10 minutes. Watch them carefully, stir, & if they start to dry out or stick to the pan, add 2 tablespoons of water, at a time to deglaze the pan.
3. Add the garlic & the crushed red pepper & cook for a minute or two more.
4. Lower the heat to medium-low & add the spinach. Cook it just until it's wilted, a couple of minutes.
5. In a food processor, blend the tofu, nutritional yeast, lemon juice, basil, salt, & pepper until smooth. Add the artichokes & the entire spinach mixture, and pulse about 15 times. Yes, I counted & 15 times seemed to do it.
6. Transfer to the baking dish and bake for 30 minutes, until lightly browned. At the end of 30 minutes, I turned on the broiler & carefully watched while the spinach-artichoke dip browned just enough.
7. Serve warm with crackers or hearty bread.
I hope you have leftovers. They are so good!!
Nutritional Info based on 8 servings
Making Chloe's Kitchen Work for Me
Ditch the oil. Ditch or lower the nuts. Forget about the coconut milk--use my "faux" version.
Don't even think about all of Chloe's yummy desserts. Knock-outs. Delicious. OK--I admit it. I've tasted the forbidden fruit. My friend Bonnie baked 2 versions of Chloe's cupcakes for our Friday night dinner group. OMG! That's why I'm warning you to stay away from them. If I had these in my house, they'd have been gone in a flash.
If you're willing to adapt recipes & skip all the cakes & cupcakes then you'll find some winners in Chloe's Kitchen, for sure. But, maybe you're better off just borrowing this from the library--before you layout the cash.
Do you all know who Chloe is? If you don't, let me introduce you. She's an adorable twenty-something wunderkind chef, who graduated from UC Berkeley--and then went straight on to culinary school in New York City, at The Natural Gourmet Institute. From there, she completed Dr. T. Colin Campbell's Plant-Based Nutrition Program at Cornell University. She's got the training--that's for sure.
Fresh out of cooking school, she surprised everyone by winning a Food Network's competition, The Cupcake Wars, with her recipe for Ginger Nutmeg Spice Cupcakes--competing against conventional cooks with eggs & butter.
Her pastry may be plant-based--but I wouldn't exactly call it health food. Kind of shocking, actually. Chloe doesn't skimp on white flour, sugar, canola oil, coconut milk, non-hydrogenated vegetable shortening, or powdered sugar when she's baking.
Many of her recipes have been featured in the New York Times, and my family gobbled up an enlightened version of her Chocolate Chip Bread Pudding at Thanksgiving.
- "Enlightened" Chloe Coscarelli's Chocolate-Chip Bread Pudding with Vanilla Cashew Cream Sauce
- Harvest-Stuffed Portobello Mushrooms (my sister-in-law swears by these) and Maple-Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Toasted Hazelnuts (leave out the oil)
What's worked for me, so far:
- Herbed Polenta Cutlets with Marsala Mushroom Ragout. Hearty & delicious. Next time I'll save time by using the already made polenta in a tube and grill it in an oil-sprayed grill cage. And I'll definitely lower the salt!
- Curried Lentil, Squash, and Apple Stew. Fabulous flavors, but cut down on the salt, & don't cook it as long as Chloe suggests. My friend Suze made this one..
- Maple-Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Toasted Hazelnuts. We made these on Thanksgiving--without the oil.
What I want to try:
- Tomato-Basil Bisque with Pumpernickel Croutons--minus the oil.
- Coconut Mashed Yams with Currants--with my faux coconut milk.
- Falafel Sliders with Avocado Hummus--minus the oil & tahini sauce.
- Moo Shu Vegetables--substituting the Chinese pancakes with whole grain tortillas.
- Thai Chickpea Burgers minus the oil.
- Ooh-La-La Lasagna--minus the oil.
- Indian Buffet Trio: Saag Aloo, Chana Masala, & Vegetable Biryani--minus the oil.
- Chloe's Award-Winning Mango Masala Panini--minus the oil.
Hope you enjoy the Spinach-Artichoke Dip.
If you've tried any of Chloe's recipes that you've loved--from her cookbook, or elsewhere--please let me know!