T’is the Season of Snacks and Parties-Hot Baked Spinach Dip

Using beet leaf in this classic appy gives it that gardner's touch

who has attended a fall or winter gathering where there was not some version of spinach dip being served? For my own home grown twist on this old standby I am using bulls blood beet leaves instead of spinach. In the summer I blanched all the greens from my beets and froze them in handy 1 cup portions. Frozen beet greens work fine for soups, lasagnas, curries or whatever but this has definitely been my favorite use of all, and the pretty pink colour is an interesting conversation starter!  Local BC beets are still available in my part of town, and if I didn’t have a whole bunch (no pun intended!) of beet leaves still in my freezer, it would be fun to use beet leaves in this dip as an appy then, serve roasted beet root with the main. A lot of spinach dip recipes out there have the addition of soup mix, hot sauce, lemon, paprika, anchovies, L&P, steak sauce, feel free if you like, I find the basic flavors of cheese and greens is just right for me, also a lot of people feel the need to skip the mayo in baked dips and use cream or milk instead, don’t skip the mayo. Without mayo this dips tends to harden up once it comes out of the oven.

Freeze greens in flat 1 cup portions for easy thawing and measuring

If you are using fresh beet leaves (or swiss chard works too) you’ll need about 6 cups before cooking, wash well, remove stems and ribs, blanch and drain, you should be left with about 2 cups of leaves after they are blanched. Alternately can use 2 cups of thawed and drained frozen spinach(one small package from frozen section is usually fine).

In a skillet over medium/low heat sauté one chopped onion in 1 tbl butter, stir frequently until onion start to become translucent then add 2 cloves of minced garlic cook just until the garlic is cooked through and fragrant but not overly brown.

In a food processor add the onion, garlic mixture blend until quite smooth, next pulse in the greens, ¼ cup cream cheese, 2 tbl mayo, a big pinch of salt and some freshly ground black pepper, pulse a few times unit greens are coarsely chopper, and everything is incorporated, but not pureed, if the greens are pureeing too fast you may need transfer to a mixing bowl and finish combining by hand with a spatula.  Scrape into a small casserole dish, top with ½ cup of your favorite shredded cheese, I like aged white cheddar but you can use mozzarella, swiss, provolone or any other melty kind of medium firm cheese. Bake at 350F  for 30mins or until cheese is bubbly and starting to brown on top. Serve with buns, bread, chips, pitas whatever you like to eat spinach dip with.

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