Adventures in Eating: Hot Artichoke Cheese Dip

For several years in a row, usually dur­ing the Fourth of July weekend, Paul and I hold an annual garden party for 70-80 friends.

We did not indulge in fancy waitresses preparing appetizers and walking around, tray in hand, while you balanced a glass of wine with one hand and tried to grace­fully pop a morsel into your mouth, in the middle of a stimulating conversation. Instead, a large table was set on the lawn with the Pacific Ocean as the backdrop. I would prepare up to 15 varieties of appe­tizers, pile the paper plates and napkins close by, and let the guests help them­selves to eat to their heart’s delight.

Our friends always came prepared to eat ‘dinner’ although the invitations listed the event as cocktails, et al.

Oftentimes, I’ve wondered whence the practice of hors d’oeuvres started. A bit of research unearthed that the Athenians, by the third century B.C., had developed the original hors d’oeuvre trolley. It was an innovation which other Greeks thought of as a miserly disposition of food. Lynceus complained that an Athenian dinner was short, “For the cook sets be­fore you a large tray on which are five small plates. One of these holds garlic, another a pair of sea urchins, another a sweet wine sop, another ten cockles, the last a piece of sturgeon. While I am eat­ing this, another is eating that, and I have done away with this. Such a layout as that seems to offer variety, but is nothing at all to satisfy the belly.” So much for Lynceus. He would have been unhappy at my parties!

A good friend, Margaret Biles, who happens to be a test chef for a cooking magazine, recently served us a marvelous appetizer made with arti­chokes. I hope you enjoy it as much as we did.

HOT ARTICHOKE CHEESE DIP

One 8 1/2 oz can artichoke hearts (packed in water), drained and finely chopped

1 jar (6 oz) marinated artichoke hearts, drained and finely chopped

1 can (4 oz) diced green chilis

6 tbsp mayonnaise

1 1/2 to 2 cups shredded cheddar cheese

1/2 cup shredded jack cheese

Tortilla chips

Salsa, optional

Spread chopped artichokes in a 2 quart shallow baking dish (au gratin dishes are best). Sprinkle with chilis and cover with mayonnaise. Sprinkle cheese on top. Cover and heat in a 350 degree oven for 15 minutes, 30 minutes if it is chilled. When the dip is heated, serve with a dol­lop of salsa. Serve with chips.

Homemade chips: Cut tortillas into 6 sections and fry in 2″ of corn oil. These taste the best!

Love easy dishes that are impressive! Cheers!

– Rosemarie

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