Is there a chip dip in the world that isn't wonderful? No matter what the flavor, at heart most are tubs of sour cream or melted cheese. Few foods are more satisfying.
Of course, most dips also are notoriously heavy with fat and calories. Still, I figured there must be ways to lighten them up while retaining their luxurious texture.
I started by bulking up on the vegetables — in this case, artichokes and spinach. Artichokes happen to contain many nutrients and a ton of fiber. I chose canned artichokes rather than frozen because the canned are packed in citric acid, which gives them a lemony kick. But if you prefer frozen, you'll need 2 cups thawed.
But why frozen spinach instead of fresh? Because you'd need to cook down a bathtub full of fresh spinach — or pretty darn near it — to end up with a cupful of frozen spinach. All I had to do was defrost it and squeeze it out.
Now, how to conjure up that rich, cheesy texture without employing a boatload of cheese? I started with Neufchatel, a French cream cheese that has one-third less fat than the full-fat version, but more flavor than the no-fat version. Then I added some low-fat sour cream for tang and a tiny bit of low-fat mayonnaise for the oil. You're welcome to substitute extra-virgin olive oil.
Finally, there's an ounce of Parmigiano-Reggiano.
All these veggies and cheese cried out for some heat. I ended up using red pepper flakes and Peppadews. Peppadews are pickled red peppers from South Africa, hot and sweet and about the size of cherry tomatoes. If you don't find them in the market, you can swap in pickled cherry peppers or even roasted red peppers.
The finishing touches? Caramelized onions and garlic. Please take the time to cook the onions slowly, which brings out their natural sugar. It adds a nice depth of flavor.
Serve this dip with a healthy cracker (just read the label) or make your own pita crisps.