It’s the ever-present holiday buffet dish: Classic Artichoke Heart Dip. It’s ok, I guess, but it could be oh so much better with just a bit of tinkering….

My summer CSA dinners out at Biver Farm are a blessing—the beautiful setting out at the picnic table, the good food and friendship are gifts I will always treasure. And there’s a definite bonus here—innovative and tasty recipe ideas from my fellow diners. Good cooks abound in our group out at the farm—from Rosi Biver to Kristin and Gary, to Liz and Fran, to a set of very talented Lindas.

In fact, the inspiration for my “elevated” Layered Artichoke Heart Dip and Squash Bottom Casserole came from CSA buddy Linda Lynch, who got a brilliant idea one day and layered her classic dip on top of roasted spaghetti squash. In true CSA spirit, Linda was looking for a way to use the squash from her weekly CSA bag, and she landed on an all-out winner. The roasted sweet squash bottom playing against the tangy classic artichoke heart dip on the top: simply brilliant. You certainly wanted some of both layers in every bite.

So when I was looking for that “new” dish for Christmas brunch, I remembered Linda’s creation. I just had one problem—no spaghetti squash. Now, I could have found one at the supermarket, if I’d tried, but how green would that have been? Spaghetti squash doesn’t store as long as other winter squash, so if you still have one…. good luck.

I went to the basement to see what I did have and came up with three medium butternuts. I could make that work, but I’d need to adjust, I thought, because butternuts and spaghetti squash have little in common other than being vegetables and varieties of squash. And so, I went to work, remaining ever-brave in the kitchen.

The payoff was huge—after examining the traditional ingredients in basic artichoke heart dip, I found the recipe always includes mayonnaise, parmesan cheese, artichoke hearts, some sort of heat such as cayenne and garlic—usually garlic powder. It may or may not include spinach, so I ignored that, especially since Linda’s original did not include spinach. But to make mine special, I also ignored store-bought mayo and opted to make my own mayonnaise (aioli without garlic, essentially) with Dijon mustard, white pepper and fresh lemon juice. I combined this with a cup of Greek yogurt that had been drained overnight in the frig to produce yogurt cream, which is almost (no, not quite) crème fraiche. For the garlic, I roasted a large head and used the two tablespoons of rich creamy pulp instead of chopping fresh or using powder. These are certainly extra steps, but worth it, I think. And note that the two eggs yolks needed for the top layer work out well with the two whites you will need for the bottom layer. Give it a try and see if you don’t agree this is a keeper update!

Layered Artichoke Heart Dip and Squash Bottom Casserole

Prep Time: 1 hour

Cook Time: 2 hours, 25 minutes

Total Time: 3 hours, 25 minutes

Yield: 10 to 12 servings

Serving Size: a couple tablespoons--this is very rich

Layered Artichoke Heart Dip and Squash Bottom Casserole

Ingredients

  • Two cups pureed butternut squash (see below for instructions)
  • One-half cup heavy cream
  • A few fresh sage or rosemary leaves
  • Two large or extra-large eggs, separated
  • One-quarter teaspoon cream of tartar
  • One teaspoon sea salt
  • Zest of one large lemon
  • 1 cup Greek Yogurt (full-fat, if you can find it, drained in a colander overnight in your frig)
  • One-quarter cup homemade mayonnaise (see below for instructions)
  • One cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano (the best you can buy)
  • Two to three tablespoons fresh roasted garlic puree (see below for instructions)
  • One 9.5-ounce jar artichoke hearts in water, well drained and chopped
  • Hot pepper seasoning to taste (I used a half-teaspoon of homemade Harissa, but a good quality ground hot pepper will do, or chili paste or whatever you like. It’s optional, depending on your love of heat.)
  • Dash fine sea salt

Instructions

    Crafting Your Special Ingredients
  1. To prepare the butternut squash puree, I find it easiest to start one day ahead. Wash the squash, slice off the ends, cut lengthwise in half and seed. Coat with a bit of olive oil or oil of choice and roast cut side down in a 375-degree oven until very soft, about 45 minutes. Allow the squash to cool until you can handle it; then, scoop out the flesh into a food processor bowl and puree until completely smooth. Now place the puree in a paper towel-lined colander and place in a bowl in the refrigerator for at least 12 hours—up to 24 hours—to drain.
  2. Likewise, place your cup of Greek yogurt in a paper towel-lined colander over a bowl in the frig for the same amount of time—you'll end up with a reduced heavy tart cream. Yum.
  3. The mayonnaise can be made at least five days in advance, but really the fresher the better. I do it within 24 hours of making the dish. Many people use a food processor to make homemade mayonnaise or aioli, but I still whisk by hand. Call me old fashioned. Put the two large egg yolks in a medium glass mixer bowl that is sitting on a damp kitchen towel (which will prevent the bowl from moving as you are whisking) and whisk until smooth and creamy. Add two tablespoons fresh lemon juice and a quarter-teaspoon fine sea salt and a pinch of white pepper. Whisk until smooth. Adding drip by drip at first, whisk in one cup of good-quality olive oil. The trick is to create a continuous emulsion, not allowing the eggs and the oil to separate—all in all, takes about 10 minutes. As the mixture takes shape, you can add the oil in larger amounts. If the eggs and oil do separate, stop adding the oil and whisk vigorously until you pull everything back together. Be brave; it will happen. Once all the oil is incorporated and you have a smooth, thick creation (much like mayo), add two teaspoons of Dijon, a few grinds of black pepper and whisk to incorporate.
  4. You can prepare your roasted garlic puree ahead by a week and store it in a tightly covered dish in the refrigerator, too. Take a really nice bulb of large garlic—maybe Persian Star or Georgian Crystal—cut off the top to expose the cloves, encase the bulb in foil, douse it with olive oil, seal tightly and roast for about an hour at 400 degrees. Check at 45 minutes to make sure it isn’t burning. Once cooled, you can just squeeze out the pulp and mash with a fork.
  5. Creating the Casserole
  6. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
  7. Have your artichoke hearts completely drained and well chopped.
  8. Generously butter an 8 X 8 square glass baking dish.
  9. Begin with the squash bottom and the heavy cream. Put the cream in a small saucepan and add the fresh herbs. Bring to a simmer and cook gently for about a minute. Now turn off the burner and allow the cream to absorb the herb’s flavor until you are ready to include it in recipe.
  10. Next, whip the egg whites with the cream of tartar to stiff peaks. The warmer your egg whites, the higher they will whip, so have them at room temp. Set the whipped egg whites aside.
  11. In a large bowl, whisk the squash puree to fluff it up. Fold in the lemon zest with just a dash of sea salt. Remove the herbs from the cream and whisk the cream into the squash. Make sure everything is evenly combined. Now gently fold in the egg whites with up-lifting strokes. Try not to totally deflate the egg whites. You should end up with a mixture that is light and fluffy and chiffon-like. Put the squash mixture into the prepared 8 X 8 square baking dish and smooth to evenly distribute.
  12. Move on to the artichoke heart dip layer by whisking together the mayonnaise, Greek yogurt cream and hot pepper or Harissa. Add the roasted garlic puree and combine well to evenly distribute all the ingredients. Fold in the Parmigiano Reggiano and then the chopped artichoke hearts. Once everything is thoroughly mixed, gently spoon it onto the squash layer—not too much at one time or it will start to sink. I used a regular dinnerware tablespoon and patted it evenly into place, making sure I covered the entire squash layer.
  13. Place the casserole in the oven for about 40 minutes, until the top is bubbly and browning on the edges.
  14. Allow it to rest for about 10 minutes and then serve piping hot as a side dish or on the buffet table with crusty bread and crackers.

Notes

I think the prep and cook times are confusing here, so let me explain a bit. You should start one day ahead so the squash and yogurt have time to drain--that 24 hours is not included. Prep time refers to prepping the squash and garlic for the oven, measuring and mixing ingredients, etc. Cook time refers to 1 hour for the garlic, 45 minutes for the squash and 40 minutes for the finished casserole.

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I made this dish three times, once for a side dish at dinner, once as an appetizer with good chips for Christmas Eve noshing and then at Christmas brunch to go with a great gluten-free quiche and a big bowl of fresh fruit salad. All were total successes. And the icing on the casserole (so to speak) was my Christmas gift from Leo the mushroom guru, who gave me some of his prized mushroom jerky. Just sprinkled it on top for that extra pop of flavor—so maybe bacon crumbles for you, or toasted, seasoned nuts. Be brave.
Gluten-free Quiche with Quinoa Crust from Delicious Living MagazineAnd about that quiche…isn’t it pretty! I found the recipe at Delicious Living Magazine, so, of course, I knew it would be good. But it wasn’t–it was GREAT! This is, by far, one of the best—gluten-free or regular–quiche I’ve ever made. I actually made it more than once, and the quinoa-based crust turned out consistently “crust-like” and delicious each time. I played around with the filling a bit, since my daughter is not a fan of corn (which is in the original recipe). The first time, I exchanged the corn for fresh-frozen broccoli (well-drained) and the second time I made a sauté of mushrooms, onions and garlic. Both versions were just scrumptious, so another plus for this recipe—flexibility. We also loved using fresh-frozen poblano peppers for a tiny “bite” in the flavor. I just can’t recommend this recipe enough. For many years now, Delicious Living Magazine has inspired my kitchen creativity and—many times—saved the meal with innovate, healthy cooking ideas. There were several vegetarian, gluten-free recipes in their “Rainbow Recipes for Winter” section that are worth trying. What a wonderful resource to carry into 2019!

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