This is one of those recipes that has been around for decades and never seems to go out of fashion. A perennial favorite, you have probably served some variation of it yourself. I decided to change the combination of ingredients a little and put an Italian spin on it.
Artichokes are one of California’s biggest crops and one that doesn’t grow in many other areas of the country. This is one of those plants that makes me wonder who was the first person to decide it was edible? Unattractive, difficult to handle, with sharp barbs, it becomes a delicacy when cooked. Because fresh ones are hard to find in most of the country, we are lucky that jarred artichoke hearts are readily available in most grocery stores. They are usually stored in a briny oil so make sure you rinse well if you don’t want them to overwhelm your final dish.
I added sun-dried tomatoes to this dip because I like the flavor they add to the artichoke hearts. Originating in Italy where they are dried in the hot sun on the tile roofs of the town, they are full of vitamin C, Lycopene, and antioxidants. Drying fresh tomatoes in this way keeps their flavor fresh all winter. They can be pureed themselves to make an absolutely “to die for” pesto!
I like to serve this with toasted bread slices from a baguette, but you can use fresh vegetable, chips, or crackers just as well. Make this part of your next antipasto platter and serve with briny olives, pickled vegetables and cured meats. Hot from the oven, it’s sure to be the hit of the party!
Jane’s Tips and Hints:
Whenever you are having a party, plan on serving dishes that can be made a day or two ahead and finished just before people arrive. The last thing you want is to be stuck in the kitchen the whole time. Set your table a day or two ahead with all the serving pieces in place and labeled with what they will hold. Buy fresh flowers on the day of the party so they are fresh. Any dishes that can be served at room temperature can be plated early in the afternoon to make room in the refrigerator. Candles around your house warm the room and cast a lovely glow. Everything is ready and you have a moment to relax before your guests arrive. It’s Party Time!
- 2 small jars artichoke hearts, drained and chopped
- 2 cups freshly grated Parmesan cheese
- 1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
- 1/2 cup chopped sun-dried tomatoes packed in oil, drained well
- 1 tsp dried oregano
- 3/4 cup mayonnaise (Light or Low-Fat is fine)
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 2 tsp freshly grated lemon zest
- 1 tsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
- Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
- About 10 large basil leaves, cut into slivers
- 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
- 1 tsp dried oregano
- 1/2 cup breadcrumbs
- 1 fresh tomato, diced, for garnish
- Place half of drained artichoke hearts in the bowl of a food processor with 2 cups Parmesan, mozzarella, tomatoes, oregano, mayonnaise, garlic, lemon zest, and lemon juice. Puree until smooth. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Stir in remaining artichoke hearts for a slightly chunky texture. Taste and adjust seasonings. Stir in basil.
- Divide equally between two buttered 2-cup shallow baking dishes. Cover and refrigerate. The dip may be made up to this point as much as 2 days ahead.
- When ready to prepare, preheat oven to 400°F.
- In a small bowl, combine topping ingredients and sprinkle evenly over each dish. Bake in hot oven until top is golden and dip is heated through, 10 to 20 minutes. Garnish with fresh tomatoes. Serve hot with baked crostini or crackers.
- Yield: About 8 servings