Monday, September 28, 2009

Recipe: Vivian's Spinach Dip From Scratch

This recipe came about because I wanted to make spinach dip for a barbecue. Spinach dip is usually made with dried soup, but after I bought a packet, I read the ingredients, which I've gotten into the habit of doing these days, and was put off by the presence of monosodium glutamate, disodium guanylate, disodium inosinate and sulfites. (For more information on some of these chemicals, see my earlier blog entry on food additives.)

I decided it would be an interesting challenge to create my own, soup-mix-free dip. And here it is. You can replace the goat yoghurt with standard cow yoghurt or the more traditional sour cream, but I find that the goat yoghurt imparts an unusual and delicious flavour to the dip. It is also easier to digest (for humans, that is) than cow dairy and lower in fat than sour cream.

  • 1 1/4 cup goat yoghurt (or 1 cup thick sour cream)
  • 10 oz spinach
  • 1 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 clove garlic, minced or put through press
  • 1/4 cup onion, finely chopped
  • 1 cup red bell pepper, chopped
  • 4 oz water chestnuts, chopped (optional)
  • 1/4 tsp salt, or to taste
  • Freshly-ground pepper to taste
  • 1 large round bread (optional)

Line a colander with cheese cloth and put the yoghurt into it. Place the colander in the sink or a bowl and leave for an hour to strain. If you are using thick sour cream, skip this step.

If you are using fresh spinach, tear off stems (unless it's baby spinach, in which case you can get away with leaving the stems on). Wash and leave some of the water on. Cook until wilted--a couple of minutes on the stove top, or ten to fifteen minutes in a preheated solar oven*. If you're using frozen spinach, thaw. Either way, squeeze out excess water and chop.

Mix the sour cream and mayonnaise together in a bowl. Add garlic, onion, red pepper, water chestnuts, salt and pepper and mix well. Blend spinach into mixture. Chill for a couple of hours.

If you are using a bread bowl, prepare it just before serving so the bread won't get soggy. Slice the top off and cut or scoop out the inside, leaving walls of reasonable thickness, at least an inch I'd say. Spoon dip into hollowed-out bread. Cut up the leftover bread (from the top and inside) to use for dipping.

If you're not using a bread bowl, serve the dip in an ordinary bowl with tortilla chips, crackers, pita chips, toast points or... anything you want, really.

If you try this recipe, please let me know what you think by posting a comment. If you think the version with dried soup in it is better, feel free to let me know that too.

*We bought a solar oven this summer. I am thoroughly enamoured of it and yes, I used it to cook the spinach for this dip. The brand we bought is Sun Oven, but as that's the only type of solar oven I've ever used, I'm not going to advocate it over other brands. The Sport Solar Oven looks good too. It is more basic as well as cheaper, and the reflector is sold separately. If you want to make your own solar oven, you can find oodles of directions on the Internet.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

A message from prot?

Here's a curious piece of synchronicity. While we were in Grand Manan, we paid a visit to the local library and James found a copy of K-PAX. Remember the K-PAX movie, about a guy in a mental hospital who calls himself "prot" and insists he's an alien from the planet K-PAX? Well, it was a novel first. In New Brunswick we have this nifty system where all the libraries are on one network, and we can use our cards anywhere in the province, so James checked the book out of the library.

In the movie, prot says he's returning to K-PAX on July 27. In the original book, the date is August 17. It's repeated several times: pyschiatrist Gene Brewer (who just happens to have the same name as the author) has very little time because of this cut-off date, August 17. Well, take a look at this slip, from the library book, and see what the return date was.

Coincidence? What are the odds? No my friends, this is a message. Prot lives! See you on K-PAX.