The Spinach and Water Chestnut Dip

SERVED HOT OR CHILLED WITH TOASTED BREAD or Melba toast, this dip is beloved at cocktail receptions all over the South and couldn’t be easier to prepare. The textural contrast between the soft spinach and cream cheese and the crunchy water chestnuts is amazing. Perhaps best of all, the dip can be made in advance and frozen in smaller individual ramekins for future entertaining emergencies. 2 tablespoons butter 4 scallions (part of green tops included), minced 2 garlic cloves, minced Two 10-ounce packages frozen chopped spinach, thawed 1⁄2 cup milk 6 ounces cream cheese 4 ounces water chestnuts, drained and chopped 1⁄2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste Tabasco sauce to taste Preheat the oven to 400°F. Grease a 11 ⁄2-quart shallow baking dish and set aside. In a large, heavy pot, melt the butter over moderate heat, add the scallions and garlic, and cook, stirring, about 5 minutes. Add the spinach, cover, and cook till the spinach is completely wilted, about 8 minutes. Transfer to a colander and drain well, pressing to extract all liquid. Add the milk to the pot used to wilt the spinach, increase the heat slightly, and whisk in the cream cheese till melted, about 3 minutes. Add the spinach mixture, water chestnuts, Worcestershire, salt and pepper, and Tabasco, stir till well blended, scrape the mixture into the prepared baking dish, and bake till bubbly, about 20 minutes. Serve the dip hot, or let cool, then refrigerate till ready to serve.

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