When I was a freshman in college (age 19, I think), my friend Brooke would also be home, because she was still in high school. Her house was on my way back to route 17, which I took through Dwight and over to I-55 to Bloomington. And what a sad, dark journey that was, especially in winter. So Brooke's house was something I could look forward to, and help stave off the inevitable homesickness I got from going back to school on a Sunday night. I don't remember the particulars surrounding this visit, or what season it was, but I do know she and her mom sent me back to school with two slices of "white pizza" with artichoke hearts. I unwrapped the slices from their tin foil before I went to bed that night. That's because when I was 19, what I really liked to do was stay up too late, eat too much 'round the clock, and complain about why I was gaining weight, sluggish, and still a virgin.
Anyway, I was totally knocked out by what I was eating. I thought it was one of the tastiest things I'd ever eaten, and it wasn't even warmed up, as I was instructed to eat it. Brooke gave me the simple recipe, and I've used it countless times since:
2 cups mozzarella cheese
1 cup parmesan (FINELY grated -- the powdery kind)
1 cup mayonnaise (I now use Hellman's Reduced Fat, the greatest lowfat mayo ever)
To that, you can add:
1 bag of rinsed-until-thawed artichoke hearts, broken up a bit with your fingers (canned works too, but the frozen ones are much fresher-tasting), as Brooke taught me originally,
1 box frozen spinach, thawed and drained (I started doing this sometimes later),
1 jar drained mushrooms
a little smoked shredded jack cheese across the top (this is a "new" alternative)
garlic seasoning, salt and pepper to taste
Pat dry any veggies you are using with a bunch of paper or one "real" towel. Mix well until combined, and then, in one version, you can place the dip in an oven-safe container (as in the photo above). Bake it for 45 minutes or so at about 350, and check on it. I like to put it under the broiler for a minute or two at the end, and serve it with pita bread or chips. Alternatively, you can spread it on a Boboli crust instead of the casserole dish, brushed beforehand with olive oil, and with some crushed garlic scattered about (then you can serve it as a white pizza).
As many times as I've made this, I've probably screwed it up just as many times. Benefit from my mistakes... Here are some things you should not do:
- Do not add the mushrooms/spinach/artichoke hearts until they are VERY dry, drained and then toweled off.
- Do not "eyeball" the measurements. Of COURSE I have attempted that, and it has always bombed, and the end result is "mayonnaise-y." When done properly, there is no hint of the mayo at the end. This was the first dish I made my husband, ever, and there was too much mayo in it. He was reluctant to try it again. (Now he likes it, knowing what it is supposed to taste like.)
- Don't over-salt it. The parmesan is already pretty salty.
- Do not forget the parmesan. Famously, I talked this dish up like crazy to my friends in college, made it, and served it to my friend Fred without adding the parmesan. The end result was too gross to even get into describing.
- Do not use shredded parmesan instead of grated parmesan. I find that it throws off the proportions.
Let ye all take heed. I know Brooke is laughing by now.
Anyway, when I make this for Chris and I as opposed to bringing it to a party, we have a lot left over. I found a third use for it: the dip makes great grilled sandwiches later on!
Just spread the cold, refrigerated dip between bread slices, or with grilled turkey as I've done here. Grill it as you would a grilled cheese. Delish.
Thanks for the recipe, Brooke! Hope I got it right. Love to you and your mom!