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Halloween Hors d’ oeuvres: Swampy Spinach Dip

Halloween Night is rapidly approaching, and no doubt you find yourselves in a dither, wondering what to serve guests at the big party you are planning. Lucky for you, Hollywood Gothique is riding to the rescue with this recipe suggestion: Swampy Spinach Graveyard Dip.

Looks pretty cool? And it tastes even better!

Fortunately, this is not a tremendously difficult dish, but to make it taste truly excellent, you need to purchase the correct ingredients, which make no allowances for low-fat, low-salt dieting.

Basically, this is a variation on a Martha Stewart recipe, called “Rest in Peas.” Here are the ingredients for the original:

  • 4 slices white bread
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 onion cut into 1/2 inch pieces
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 1/2 cups milk
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 teaspon freshly grated nutmeg
  • pinch of cayenne pepper
  • 2 10-ounce boxes of frozen peas, thawed and drained

In my version, you add/substitute the following

  • 2 10-ounce boxes of frozen spinach instead of peas
  • 1 dozen broccolli crowns
  • 1/2 dozen cherry tomatoes on the vine
  • an ounce or two of your favorite cheese (preferably white in color) grated into long, thin strands.

Here is what you do…

First, to make the tombstones:

  • Cut the white bread into tombstone shapes. Martha Stewart’s Holiday magazine (special issue 11/1/04) provides a template, but you can do just as well cutting by hand.
  • Brush or spray the bread with olive oil and sprinkle with salt.
  • Make a stencil by using a penknife to cut the letters RIP into a piece of paper; then place the stencil over the oiled-bread tombstones and sprinkle the pepper. The letters might not come out perfectly clear, but they will be recognizable as RIP.
  • Toast the bread until golden brown (10-12 minutes) at 350 degrees.

Next, to make the spinach:

  • Heat butter in a saucepan until foaming. Cook onion in butter over medium heatĀ until tender (approximately 4 minutes).
  • Very slowly whisk in the milk and flour. Cook until it thickens, 3 to 5 minutes.
  • Stir in cream, nutmeg and Cayenne.
  • Add spinach and cook until it is heated through. This might take only a few minutes if the spinach is thawed.
  • Transfer the mixture into a rectangular serving dish as seen in the photo.

Finally, decorate the dish:

  • UseĀ the toasted bread slices for tombstones.
  • Use the broccolli crowns for trees and bushes. You can serve the broccolli raw; or, if you prefer, steam it slightly first.
  • Use the cherry tomatoes on the vine for pumpkins.
  • Sprinkle the grated cheese on the treas and tombstones for spiderwebs. This might not look perfect, but if you leave the dish in a warm oven before serving, the cheese will melt and look better.

The result looks pretty ghastly (I didn’t name it Swampy Spinach Dip for nothing!), but with all that cream and nutmeg it tastes quite excellent.

Use the bread tombstones to scoop up the dip. This can be served as an apetizer or a sidedish. One year, I even added a few more ingredients and turned it into a one-dish main course caserol. But I’ll leave that variation for another day…