For family dinner on Superbowl Sunday, the idea came about for a dip competition. This is a crew that certainly enjoys a friendly (or not so friendly) competition. So, we agreed that each person could bring one entry. Savory dips would all be judged using Tostitos scoops. Sweet dips would all be judged using graham crackers. We created a rubric for judging including the following categories: presentation, scoopability, taste explosion, creativity, and name (+ discretionary points for favorites). We stewed over our entries for a few weeks. And we gathered, some with hot dips, some with cold. We served them one at a time, giving each person a chance to present and make some remarks about their dips.
There were some amazing entries! We sampled eleven dips in all. My favorites were: a Greek-style dip that layered hummus, tzatziki, kalamata olives, feta cheese, and diced cucumber; a buffalo-chicken style dip in a cream cheese base; and (I'm biased) my own entry. I brought my sister's spinach-artichoke dip. Every time we gather at my sister's house for a holiday or a party, I demand that she make her little mini Crock Pot full of this dip. It is to die for. It is great with chips, spread on toast, thinned and used as a pasta sauce, as a pizza topping . . . or just eaten with a spoon. It's pretty simple and if you got crazy, you could make all your own base ingredients from scratch: cream cheese, mayonnaise, and sour cream. Roasting the garlic ahead of time is an essential step that gives the dip a ton of extra flavor. Also roasting garlic is super-easy and it tastes amazing in just about anything. Next time you have the oven running, just pop a head of garlic in there wrapped in foil and let it get nice and golden and soft.
8 oz cream cheese, softened at room temperature
1/2 C mayonnaise
1/2 C sour cream
1 10-oz box frozen spinach, thawed
1 head roasted garlic, cooled
1 14.5-oz can artichoke hearts (could also use 2 C frozen, thawed)
1/4 C chopped water chestnuts (about half a small can)
To roast garlic: take a head of garlic and slice it in half through the equator, so each clove is cut in half. Place it on a small piece of tin foil. Drizzle with about 1 teaspoon olive oil and sprinkle with salt. Wrap up tightly in the foil. Roast at 350 or so for about an hour, until it's very soft and golden-brown.
To make dip: Mix together cream cheese, mayonnaise, and sour cream in a large oven-safe bowl or casserole. Press all the excess water out of the spinach using a fine-mesh sieve, or just by taking fistfuls of it and squeezing it over the sink. Add it to the base mixture. Pop the garlic cloves out of their skins (they slide out very easily if you pinch the bottom), and roughly chop them. Add them to the casserole. Drain the artichoke hearts and chop them roughly and add to dip. Mix in water chestnuts. Give everything a thorough stirring. Taste and add salt as needed (remember that the chips will be quite salty, too).
If you're making this in a little Crock Pot, just set it to low and let it warm for several hours. If making in the oven, pop it in at 350 for about thirty minutes, stirring halfway through. Serve warm.
I forgot to take a picture of the dip in its original glory, but here it is with some chopped roasted chicken, resurrected into a pasta dish for dinner last night: