Sunday, November 2, 2008

Dipping Days

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When a Milestone's opened up right by my place in London, ON last year, I used to love going there for two things on their menu (ok, make that three if we’re counting the bellini): 1) their California Spring Salad, and 2) their Hot Spinach and Artichoke Dip. The dip was…unbelievably good. It had the perfect creamy texture to it, and unlike so many places, didn’t have an overpowering cream cheese taste to it. Needless to say, it was delicious, and that was one of the reasons I kept going back to Milestone’s.

I haven’t been to Milestone’s since I’ve moved away from London. Granted, I’ve never been to a Milestone’s before the one right beside my apartment complex opened, and I probably won’t go to a Milestone’s any time soon when they were countless other great, non-chain restaurants to choose from in Toronto. However, I find myself missing their dip from time to time. With a friend hosting a “Pretentious Games Party” last night, I thought it would be the perfect finger food to bring along to the party.

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I used frozen chopped spinach; if you want to go all out and use fresh spinach, then be my guest. I just think that you’ll save yourself a lot of trouble and work by buying a package of the pre-chopped stuff. And try to use marinated artichokes rather than the canned variety; the seasoned ones are more tasty, and they’ll add an extra boost of flavour to the dip.

This recipe is really just using your instincts and your own tastes. It’s really all up to how you like your dip. Add more mayonnaise and/or cream cheese to make it creamier, add more cheese if you’re a cheese-lover like me, or add more lemon juice for a dip with a bit more tang. You can even try using different cheeses—I used a blend of 4 Italian cheeses, but an aged white Cheddar cheese or Gruy√®re would be just as lovely. Or if you want the gooey cheesiness but not the pungent flavour, stick with the reliable mozzarella. Just be sure to use good-quality cheese, because that will make all the difference.

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Hot Spinach & Artichoke Dip
Serves 8 to 10 as an appetizer

1 10-oz package frozen spinach, thawed and squeezed of its excess water
1 14-oz jar marinated artichoke hearts, drained, squeezed of its excess water, and finely chopped 1 cup grated cheese (a blend of four Italian cheeses works really well)
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 cup plus 2 heaping tbsp mayonnaise
3 heaping tbsp cream cheese, softened
Squeeze of lemon juice, to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Extra cheese, for sprinkling on top

Combine all the ingredients in a bowl, and allow to sit in the fridge for a few hours to allow the flavours to come together.

When ready to serve, pour the dip into an ovenproof dish and sprinkle over the extra cheese. Bake at 400°F for 20 minutes, or until heated through and the cheese is bubbling and lightly golden brown.

Serve with tortilla chips, crackers, pita or bread.

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