Good Taste: A dish for potlucks or a dinner party

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How cute was it when Lara and Dana fell in love during the first season of The L Word? Dana was so clueless about fine dining that she thought the fetching sous chef was a soup chef. And there you have a certain paradigm: lesbians who know how to mack it in the kitchen, and the kitchen-challenged girls who love them (or their cooking).

To name a few celeb family members: The foxy Cat Cora (first and only female Iron Chef), the sultry Anita Lo, and Elizabeth “Lock Up Your Foodie Daughters” Falkner, and the deliciously salty-tongued, puckish Gabrielle Hamilton, of Manhattan’s Prune restaurant, author of chef memoir Bones, Blood and Butter (out next spring from Random House).

Just peep the uniform. Clogs. Checkered pants. And jackets with mandarin collars. So lesbian. We know how to rock that look: dapper, yet utilitarian.

Now let’s compare and contrast.

Amazing, talented chefs.

Typical potluck fare.

Big old gap.

And I am here to bridge it.

We all know Sapphism and potlucks go together like paprika on hummus. But unfortunately, your average smorgasbord tends to present as tragic and wan. There’s the six different kinds of aforementioned hummus, vegetables clanging with rosemary, supermarket crudité, and dishes so free of ingredients (meat, dairy, gluten, peanuts, soy) that they resemble vapor.

It’s time for the twain to meet, to sex the culinary cherry. Oranges are not the only fruit, garbanzos not the only beans. When asked to bring a dish, or it’s your night to cook, lean on me. And don’t be afraid to substitute around touchy ingredients. You can email me if you have any questions — or put it out there in the comments section, and I will happily respond (or some Helpful Harriet will beat me to it).

So without further ado, here’s my easy yet impressive recipe:

Spinach Artichoke Dip with Hummus Surprise

Buy a whole, uncut French boule (round loaf of bread, I get mine at Whole Foods) and hollow it out. Don’t do this with your mouth; with a bread knife, mark a circle on top about 3/4 inch in from the perimeter. Taking care not to stab through the bottom, run the knife down and trace the circle cut. Cut out the insides in chunks and set them aside. When you’re done, cut the chunks into dipping cubes.

It’s also a good idea to get a second loaf of bread (perhaps gluten-free?) and cut that into dipping cubes — especially if you’re trying to bed a gluten-free gal.

Now for the filling.

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
1 14-oz. can artichoke hearts, drained and chopped
1 bag frozen spinach, thawed and drained in a colander
1 cup mushroom or vegetable broth
½ to 1 cup grated parmesan cheese (Vegans, substitute grated, steamed cauliflower tossed with nutritional yeast)
8 oz. container of your favorite store-bought hummus
½ cup tahini (optional)

Put a medium-to-large sauté pan on a burner turned to medium-high. Add 1 tablespoon of olive oil, wait until it heats up, then add the onion. Sauté the onion until it becomes translucent. Lower the heat to medium. Add the artichoke hearts and the spinach, and 1 cup broth. Stir, letting the broth evaporate, until it’s no longer soupy but more of a glob. (Not glamorous, but we’re talking about a dip here).

Remove from heat and stir in the parmesan cheese and hummus. Now’s the time to add tahini if you want to up the unctuous factor.

If desired, add salt and pepper to taste. I also add a dash of smoked paprika, but that’s up to you. Place the mixture in the bread boule, and arrange on a platter with bread cubes and crackers. Fussy beyotch option (I’m one, it’s cool): chop up some bright green leaves of parsley and sprinkle them on top as a garnish.

To be extra-chivalrous, place a spoon in the mixture so that people can more gracefully transfer the dip to their bread or crackers.

The dip is best served warm, so if you need to make it ahead, don’t put it directly in the bread boule. Put it into a container, and chill it, and before your gathering, heat it up and then place it in the nifty bread container.

Bring it to the buffet, wander off to mingle, and act all modest and casual about how studly your contribution is.

Stay tuned for future columns, including The Gluten-Free Girl Whisperer; Q&As with Gabrielle Hamilton (plus her cheeky reinventions of the grilled cheese sandwich) and Spoon Fed memoirist and New York Times writer Kim Severson; Extreme Makeover: Tacky Hors D’Oeuvres; Seal-the-Deal Breakfasts; and Seduction Menus for the Kitchen-Challenged.

Candace is the co-editor of Dear John, I Love Jane: Women Write About Leaving Men for Women (Seal Press, 2010), and Ask Me About My Divorce: Women Open Up About Moving On (Seal Press, 2009). She is currently working on a memoir-with-recipes for Seal Press called Licking the Spoon. Candace is also the features editor at Mothering magazine, mama of two, and enamorata of smarty-pants Laura, her live-in recipe tester. Follow Candace on Twitter @candacewalsh.

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