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!

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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!