I wax poetic about this every year around this time, but gosh, I love spring. There's a certain feeling of hope and renewal in the air, and a positive, excited energy all around. The weather is gorgeous, everything blooms and blossoms... it really is the best time of the year. Along with spring being my favorite season, Easter is probably my favorite holiday. Both from the religious and cultural points of view, I love all that it stands for and symbolizes. And from a totally shallow standpoint, I love the clothes. ;) Seriously, I'm dying over my kids' Easter outfits this year!
There are a million and one things I love about spring, and I won't bore you with the list. Instead, I'll hone in on the produce. Don't get me wrong, summer produce is pretty much incomparable, but spring produce is so special in its own right. It's the first green we've seen in months. It's bright and fresh and sweet. And I love it all.
So naturally, in order to elevate the veggie love, what did I do? I mixed those beautiful green spring vegetables with a bunch of goat cheese and served it with bread. Naturally. Adding bread and goat cheese to anything basically makes it a winner in my book.
Let me run down the list of gorgeous ingredients in this dip: asparagus, peas, artichokes, leeks, a whole mess of herbs, mozzarella, and goat cheese. I mean, come on. What's not to love there? This is basically a spin on spinach-artichoke dip, so you still have that familiar cheesy flavor and texture, but it's just gussied up with some extra veggies and goat cheese.
If you're still finalizing your Easter menu, definitely add this as an appetizer. Everyone will stand around eating it until its gone, and by then dinner will be ready and on the table!
Spring veggie and goat cheese dip. Do it.
Spring Vegetable Goat Cheese Dip
adapted from Bon Appetit, April 2012
- 1 cup 3/4-inch pieces asparagus, spears reserved (so only the stalks)
- 2 Tbs unsalted butter
- 2 medium leeks
- 2 Tbs all-purpose flour
- 1 1/4 cups milk
- 1-2 Tbs dry white wine
- 1 cup grated mozzarella
- kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1 (14.5 oz) can artichoke hearts, drained and chopped
- 1/4 cup fresh or frozen peas
- 2 Tbs chopped fresh chives
- 2 Tbs chopped fresh parsley
- 2 Tbs chopped fresh mint
- 2 Tbs chopped fresh basil
- 1/2 tsp lemon zest
- 1 Tbs lemon juice
- 4 oz crumbled goat cheese, divided
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees and lightly grease a 4 to 5 cup baking dish. Set aside.
Bring a medium saucepan of salted water to a boil, and add the asparagus pieces (but not the tips). Boil for 1-2 minutes, drain, and rinse with cold water. Set aside.
Return the now empty saucepan to the stovetop and melt the butter over medium heat. Add the leeks and 1/4 teaspoon of salt. Cook, stirring often, until the leeks are soft, about 10 minutes.
Whisk in the flour and cook, whisking constantly, 1 to 2 minutes. Slowly whisk in the milk, and bring to a simmer, continuing to whisk frequently. Cook until the mixture is slightly thickened, 3 to 4 minutes, and remove from heat.
Stir in the mozzarella, artichokes, peas, all the herbs, lemon zest and juice, 1/4 teaspoon of pepper, and 2 ounces of the goat cheese. Taste and season with additional salt and pepper as needed.
Spoon the dip into the prepared baking dish, and arrange the reserved asparagus spears over the top. Sprinkle with the remaining 2 ounces of goat cheese, transfer to the oven, and cook 15 to 20 minutes, or until the dip is hot and bubbly and the cheese is beginning to brown.
Allow to cool slightly before serving, and serve with toasted bread slices or crackers.