One of my favorite Panic Meals involves whatever sad produce I have in the fridge, purposefully burned to a crisp and puréed with something fatty. It’s a great way to revive vegetables that have long passed their prime and an excuse to have chips and dip for dinner—which is always a plus.
Recently, I encountered a substance that rekindled my interest in this food genre: A small jar of imported Italian artichoke spread, which I bought for a picnic back when the air was safe to breathe. As far as I can tell, it’s puréed artichokes bound together with sunflower seed oil and seasoned with a bit of salt. It’s unbelievable. There’s no dairy involved, but it’s super creamy, and it packs a concentrated punch of pure artichoke flavor—like the best spinach artichoke dip you’ve ever had, all artichokes and no filler. Naturally, I needed to figure out how to make it.
I’m thrilled to report that it’s as easy as I thought it would be. All you need is a blender (or a stick blender), a skillet, a few pantry ingredients, and literally 10 minutes. For the smoothest possible results, use a high-powered blender and canned artichoke bottoms—they’re not as stringy as hearts, and thus need less convincing to purée. With that said, the batch featured in the photograph above was made with hearts and a stick blender; it turned out great.
To make approximately one cup of delicious artichoke spread, you will need:
- 1/4-1/2 cup flavorful oil of your choice (I used a mixture of extra-virgin olive oil and toasted walnut oil)
- 1 15-ounce can artichoke hearts or bottoms in brine, drained
- 2-3 garlic cloves, peeled and smashed
- 1 teaspoon lemon juice, apple cider vinegar, or other acidic ingredient
- 1/2 teaspoon smooth Dijon mustard (optional)
- Salt to taste
Canned artichokes are often disappointingly bland, so you’ll need to punch them up a bit. Heat 2 tablespoons of oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. When it’s nice and hot, add the drained artichokes and garlic cloves. Cook for 3-5 minutes, stirring frequently, until the vegetables are caramelized around the edges.
Scrape the contents of the skillet into a blender, or whatever container you usually use with your stick blender. Pour the lemon juice or vinegar into the empty skillet, scrape up any stuck-on brown bits, and add that to the blender too. Add the mustard, if applicable, and purée the mixture until you have a slightly lumpy, grayish-yellow paste. (Sorry—it gets better, I promise!)
With the motor running, drizzle in 1/4 cup of oil, and purée until totally smooth. If it seems a bit too thick, gradually add up to 1/4 cup more oil and purée until you reach the desired consistency. Season to taste with salt and serve warm, room temperature, or cold.
Although this is fantastic as part of a vegan antipasti plate, don’t let the dip-like format box you in. It’s basically artichoke-based vegan mayo, which makes it incredibly versatile; wherever you’d reach for the Vegenaise, try some of this instead. Personally, I’m most excited to try a double artichoke spinach dip, with this spread subbed in for the mayo base. (Though I can’t promise I won’t add cheese.)