With this weekend’s heat (finally!), I knew I’d have to harvest the rest of my spring greens and snowpeas, plus with the Olympic Trials starting in Eugene with all its attendant crowds at local restaurants, it seemed the perfect time to stay at home. So we decided to host an impromptu barbecue!
Retrogrouch manned the meat station, and I played with vegetables. I’ll post about my new invention, Faster Than A Speeding Bullet New Dill Pickles, later. Suffice it to say I used a Japanese method and my great-grandma’s Polish cucumber salad to make a very serviceable new dill pickle slice in three hours flat. We ended up making a variety of grilled things based on what people brought, so it was a night of burgers, brats, salmon and steak (!), plus my black bean bulgar wheat salad and a mesclun salad with chive blossom vinegar as sides. Someone brought a lovely cool lime tart for dessert.
Another discovery was a very decent “spinach-artichoke” dip that I drummed up from our huge supply of greens. It was made from much healthier ingredients than your usual spinach dip. My recipe makes 3-4 cups of a relatively firm-textured dip that can’t be frozen, so you’ll either have to scale down or use it as a stuffing in cherry tomatoes, celery, peapods, etc., or as a pasta sauce. Or have a huge party! Or just leave it in the fridge and snack on it all weekend long during a heat wave…
The farmers markets are selling early, soft, large-leaved basil, so I used some for this recipe. It makes the dip taste less like “spinach-artichoke” and more like pesto, which is not necessarily a bad thing. The base is ricotta cheese instead of sour cream or mayo, which helps lend a lightness to the dip, as does the lack of oil. Add just a bit of lemon juice to keep the basil from discoloring. We used a budget Parmesano Reggiano, which was fine, and frozen artichoke bottoms, available at Middle Eastern grocery stores. You could also use artichoke bottoms (or hearts) canned in water.
Spring Greens Basil Artichoke Dip
Makes 3-4 cups.
- 1 very large bunch chard
- 1 very large bunch kale
- 1 big handful fresh basil
- 6-8 oz. frozen artichoke bottoms, thawed and chopped
- 1 lb. whole milk ricotta cheese
- 1/4 cup light cream cheese
- 1/4 cup parmesan cheese, grated
- 1-2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 T. lemon juice
- salt and freshly grated pepper
Clean greens and remove stems. Blanch the chard and kale in a large pot of boiling water by submerging the leaves in the water for only a couple of minutes max, until they are bright green and wilted. (I did it in two batches.) Then, remove the leaves and immediately plunge them in a large bowl of iced water to stop the cooking and set the color.
After letting the greens cool, remove from iced water and squeeze as much water from the ball of greens as you can (again, it’s better to do this in at least two batches).
When greens are prepared, add them and the rest of the ingredients to a food processor, and pulse until ingredients are well mixed but not pureed.
Add salt and freshly ground pepper to taste. Salt is crucial, since the ricotta and greens are mild.
Refrigerate for at least an hour. The ricotta cheese and small amount of lemon juice makes this dip not so great for keeping at room temperature for long periods.
Serve with wheat crackers or pita bread.