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The last month has been a whirlwind of activity in every aspect of life, except for The Otium!  About a month ago, the S.O. and I decided to punt out of our packed-like-sardines Stepford Wives neighborhood.  We hurried to prep our house for showings before taking two weeks to visit the S.O.’s family in Michigan for the first two weeks of the year.  Our trip was the first true vacation I’ve had in a while — I didn’t cook or work the entire time!

But once we got home, we still couldn’t use the house because of the showings.  Cooking was totally out of the question — the stagers had hidden every spice in my pantry and every spatula I own.  So when we finally accepted an offer on the house this past weekend, I was ridiculously excited to cook again (once I unearthed my spatulas, that is)!

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The first dish to tackle was a spinach-artichoke dip for football Sunday.  Searching for a recipe, I pored over at least a dozen cookbooks and three pages of google results, all to no avail.  Every recipe I found was a cold dip, used an discomforting amount of cream cheese, required a five-hour nap in a Crock Pot, called for canned artichokes, or a combination of the above.  So I was on my own for this recipe.

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The bright side is I ended up with a spinach-artichoke dip that is exactly as I like it:  warm, creamy, and fresh.

Crème fraîche is key to adding creaminess without a pronounced flavor, unlike cheese or cream cheese, which overwhelm the subtle veggies.  Caramelized onions, cumin, and paprika round out the flavor with a sweet earthiness.  And fresh spinach and artichokes make a world difference, creating a plushness you can’t get with frozen or canned veggies.

This entirely from-scratch method is admittedly labor-intensive.  But the final product is totally worth the effort.  Plus, you can serve the steamed artichoke petals to scoop the dip.

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Caramelized Onion Spinach-Artichoke Dip

Generously serves 4 as the only appetizer | Cook time 90 mins (30 inactive)

Ingredients

  • 2 artichokes
  • 1 small yellow onion
  • salt
  • olive oil
  • white wine
  • 8 oz baby spinach
  • 3/4 C crème fraîche
  • 1/2 C sour cream
  • 2 oz cream cheese, softened
  • 1/2 tsp cumin
  • 1/2 tsp paprika
  • shaved Parmesan cheese

Directions

  1. Prepare a large pot containing about 2″ of water with a steamer basket above.  Bring to boil.  Preheat oven to 350°F.
  2. Meanwhile, prep the artichokes.  Trim thorns off the tips of the petals, then chop 3/4″ off the top of the artichokes.  Place artichokes into steamer basket, cover with a tight-fitting lid, and steam for 25-40 minutes (depending on size of artichokes) or until petals can be plucked off without much resistance.
  3. While artichokes are steaming, caramelize the onions.  Slice onion rings of ~2 mm thickness (a mandoline is highly recommended for this step).  Place onions, a sprinkle of salt, and a tablespoon of olive oil in a heavy skillet over medium heat, stirring to coat onions in oil.  Stir frequently to prevent onions from sticking; deglaze the pan as needed with white wine (or water).  As the onions get closer to finishing, you’ll need to stir and deglaze more and more frequently.  Once onions have caramelized, remove from skillet and set aside.
  4. In the same skillet, add baby spinach.  If needed, drizzle sparingly with olive oil — residual oil from the onions may be enough to prevent the spinach from sticking.  Sauté over medium heat until wilted but still bright green.  Remove from heat, roughly chop, then set aside.
  5. Remove artichokes from steamer basket and run them under cold water.  When they’re cool enough to handle, remove all of the petals and set them aside.  Remove and discard the inedible fuzz covering the heart.  Scoop out the heart, roughly chop, then set aside.  Discard stem.
  6. In a large mixing bowl, add crème fraîche, sour cream, cream cheese, cumin, and paprika, and mix until well incorporated.  Fold in the artichoke hearts, spinach, and onions.
  7. Pour mixture into buttered casserole dish, and top with shaved Parmesan.  Bake at 350°F for 30 minutes, then finish under broiler to brown the Parmesan, about 3 minutes.
  8. Let dip cool and settle for about 10 minutes before serving.

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