Sunday, May 8, 2011

Spinach, Arugula, and Feta Dip

Ah, this dip, it's my present to myself this Mother's Day. I have only furbabies at the moment, but I'm very much their mom.

However, before I share this slice of heaven with you, I want to talk about my Mom.

My mother and I share a passion for food and drink. If she hadn't taught me to appreciate every flavor, every process, every bite, I probably wouldn't be writing this, at this very moment. A love of food is handed down in families, from generation to generation. My mom's side of the family is mostly Italian and they truly believe food is love. No gathering is complete without a copious amount of some kind of Italian red, boisterous (some would say loud, I would disagree) conversation, and the dishes made possible by the talent of our amazing family.

My mom and I in Florence, Italy
No where does this passion for food come out more than in our travels. We have been blessed to travel across the country together, and the world. We've traveled to Italy together not once, but twice at this point. We navigated the hills and winding roads of Siena, in Tuscany, listening to the lovely clink of fork to plate on a Sunday afternoon. We spent an afternoon in Sicily with my husband, and brother, taking down plate after plate of local cuisine, followed by copious amounts of grappa with the owner.

My family in Sicily

I would love to say I was smart enough to plan ahead for this post, that this dish has something to do with our roots and our travels across the world, but it doesn't. I was simply inspired to write this today. I wouldn't spend the time in the kitchen that I do, or savoring the last sip of an amazing wine if it wasn't for my mother. This is simply a nod to her, and all she's done for me, in the kitchen, and in life in general. I love you Mom, I hope we continue to taste all this world has to put in front of us.

The Lighter Side of Local, Week 2

Did you make it to your farmers' market, or perhaps a local farm this week? What did you get, anything you'd like to share with the class here? Weather in New England continues to be fickle. This week has seen warm with thunderstorms at one moment, cold with rain another. However, as you see above, it did not stop me from grabbing a tumbler tomato hanging basket at the market today. Yes, it's pretty chilly for tomatoes, so it will split its time between the backyard and the breezeway. It gives me hope for things to come however.

Organizing and Meal Planning

I want to talk about meal planning and organizing your purchases this week. It's such a key to making your buys last longer, and to make sure they're not going to waste. If you're going to start eating more locally, as I've mentioned, you can't always have a set list in your brain, ahead of time. You need to base your meal planning around what's available in your area that week. Once you've been shopping at a market or farm for awhile, you'll have a better sense, week-to-week, as to what might be available at what time. Until that point though, it's better to shop first, plan right after.

I meal plan around what is freshest, and the best bargain for the week. Last week, I made it through the entire week on what we bought at market and a local farm the week before. I tossed broccoli raab into risotto and pasta, spinach and arugula went into salads, omelets, and the dip I'm about to share with you today. The onions went into homemade bread, and the garlic greens, they went into just about everything this week.

This is how I suggest it all go down.

- Go to your farmers' market or local farm, pick up a variety of things that look amazing to you.  Remember to add in some kind of garlic and onion varietal for flavor and head home.
- Once you get home, clean it all. I cannot stress this enough. If you clean it all, prep it, you're more likely to use it during the week.
- After you've cleaned it all, think of ways you can use it. Search for recipes online, your favorite blogs (ahem), through magazines. Remember, especially at this time of the year, most recipes involving greens are interchangeable. I'll make the same pasta with spinach, mustard greens, or kale. The end flavor is tad different, but not far off.
- Don't forget about all the common ways you can use this stuff as well, salads, omelets, sandwiches, pasta, and soups. Archive base recipes for your favorites and change out the produce depending on what's in season.

What I picked up this week:

1 bunch broccoli raab (it's so good right now, I just can't help it)
1/2 pound of kale
1 bunch garlic greens
1 bunch radishes

I didn't get as much as last week. I still had some spinach and arugula left from the previous trip, so I figured I can get by on what I have on hand. This week's trip to market only cost me $9.50. I'm also not yet preserving anything again. Just too early on to really get on board with that.

And do you have some greens leftover like I do? Spinach and arugula combine with feta cheese for this amazing dip. You could sub out pretty much anything for the arugula, such as mustard greens, or you could just do the entire dip with the sweet spring spinach that's out there right now.

Spinach, Arugula, and Feta Dip
Serves: 4-6 people (makes one 8x8 or one pie dish worth)

1 large shallot, chopped
1/2 cup chopped garlic greens
1 cup chopped spinach
1 cup chopped arugula
1 block (8 oz) cream cheese
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2-3 slices slightly stale bread (or fresh, toasted) of your choice
1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. 

In a dutch oven, or large sauce pan, melt 1 tablespoon of butter over medium heat. Once melted, add your shallots and cook until just tender, about 3-4 minutes. Next, add your garlic greens and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds or so. Now, take your greens (the spinach and arugula) and add them to your pan. You want to cook them down a bit, until just wilted, stirring here and there so they get the flavor of those shallots and garlic greens. At this point, add your cream cheese and begin to melt it, stirring it into the greens mixture. Once completely melted and combined, add your salt and pepper. Reduce heat to low and keep mixture warm.

In a small food processor or by hand, make breadcrumbs by chopping up your slices of bread, placing 3/4 of a cup of the crumbs in a small bowl (you might have some leftover, that's OK). Take the remaining 1 tablespoon of butter and melt it. You want to then pour the butter over the breadcrumbs and toss to coat.

Now you're going to assemble the dip. Pour the warmed greens and cream cheese mixture into an 8x8 baking pan or a standard pie dish or similar sized baking dish. Sprinkle a 1/2 cup of feta cheese over the mixture. Finally, cover the top of the dip with your bread crumbs.

Place in your preheated oven and bake for 25-30 minutes or until the mixture is bubbling.

Serve warm with crackers, pita chips, or tortilla chips. Pin It


Tiffany said...

I love the pictures of you and your family! And I love this dip! So much more creative than a spinach-artichoke dip!

Torviewtoronto said...

delicious flavours looks wonderful

Erin said...

wow. this looks delicious! Also, such a sweet post about your mom.

Megan said...

This dip sounds awesome. I am slightly obsessed with feta and look for ways to use it in everything!