Warm Spinach Mascarpone Dip

Chow on 12.21.09
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I'm normally all over anything served warm, spreadable and dippable, but I had never met a spinach dip to fall in love with, that is until now. Most recipes that I've seen call for sour cream and cream cheese, and the combination of the two heavy ingredients make the spinach dip too thick and hides the flavor of the spinach. Which is good if you're like my husband and don't like spinach anyways and is in it only for the warm oozy cheese...but just so-so for Popeye fans.

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The solution that I found was in a cookbook called "In a Cheesemaker's Kitchen" by Allison Hooper, founder of the Vermont Butter and Cheese company. They not only sent me a cookbook to test recipes from, but also included a selection of their artisan cheeses, including a mascarpone cheese, which I used in their Warm Spinach Mascarpone Dip recipe.

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Simply fantastic. The mascarpone cheese made the spinach dip so much lighter!

(screeeetch!) Wait. I didn't say the dip was lighter in calories (I haven't counted, and I probably won't) as mascarpone is made of butterfat. But um, perfect warm spinach dip? Who's counting?! The texture of the dip is lighter than if you used sour cream/cream cheese combo...and bonus...I can taste the spinach!

Oh and by the way, I've just realized that I've been pronouncing Mascarpone wrong all these years.

My way (i.e. the wrong way): mar-ska-pone

The right way: mas-car-pone

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Warm Spinach Mascarpone Dip Recipe

adapted from In a Cheesemaker's Kitchen by Allison Hooper

I think the original recipe lacked a crucial step - and that is to squeeze out all of the water from the frozen spinach. I like to serve the spinach dip with sliced french bread, celery sticks or warmed pita bread triangles. I've also used two small ramekins, each ramekin holding 1-cup of the spinach dip comfortably. Oh, I've also added freshly grated nutmeg to the original recipe too.

Yields 2 cups 

16 ounces frozen chopped spinach, defrosted

1 small onion, minced

2 tablespoons olive oil

1/2 teaspoon kosher or sea salt (1/4 teaspoon table salt)

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg (freshly grated if you have)

1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper powder

8 ounces mascarpone cheese, softened at room temperature

1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese

1. Preheat the oven to 350F. 

2. Take a handful of the defrosted spinach and squeeze and discard the water from the spinach. Squeeze as much of the water out as you can, you should get about a little less than a cup of spinach water. 

3. Heat a saute pan over medium heat. When hot, add the olive oil and swirl to coat. Add the onions and saute until soft and translucent, about 4-5 minutes (take your time, if you do this over high heat, the onions will burn and become bitter). Add the spinach and saute until the spinach is warm, but still bright green about 30 seconds.

4. Season and toss with salt, pepper, nutmeg and cayenne. Turn off the heat and stir in the mascarpone cheese and the grated parmesan. 

5. Pour into 2 small ramekins (or other oven-safe dish) and bake for 30 minutes until the cheese is bubbling around the edges. Serve warm with pita chips, bread or celery sticks.