Hot Artichoke-Cauliflower Antipasto For Isabella's Birthday

Heading into her first birthday, Isabella, the youngest in our family, sampled the artichoke antipasto before it was completed and baked. And loved it. But what she had was closer to a purely artichoke spread or dip, rather than the cauliflower and artichoke baked version with cheese. So here is the "original", which is a dish I developed a few years ago and have taught several times for my Evening At Emory international cooking classes.

I’m not sure this earthy dish actually corresponds to an Italian antipasto, but if it does not, it certainly is consistent with one. More important, it serves extremely well at the beginning of an Italian meal, or at the buffet table, scooped onto warm crusty bread. It's especially good in cold weather. Like Isabella's birthday today in Boston.

Hot Artichoke-Cauliflower Antipasto Tim

2 cauliflower flowerets, about 2/3 cup
1/2 scallion (green onion), green part only
1 small clove garlic
1 (14 ounce) can artichoke hearts (not the marinated type)
1 tablespoon mayonnaise
5/8 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon oregano
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/8 teaspoon cayenne or 3 squirts hot pepper sauce
Large pinch nutmeg
3/4 cup half and half or light cream
3 tablespoons grated Romano or Parmesan cheese
Minced parsley for garnish
French or Italian bread or low-salt crackers for serving

Heat oven to 425 degrees.

Using a food processor, finely chop the cauliflower, scallion, and garlic. Drain and rinse the artichoke hearts and add them to the food processor. Add the mayonnaise, salt, oregano, black and red pepper, and nutmeg. Chop the mixture finely. Add the half and half or cream and the grated cheese. Pulse to mix well.

Spread the mixture about 1-inch deep in an ovenproof serving dish. Sprinkle the top with paprika. Bake 30 to 40 minutes, or until bubbling and beginning to brown. (Warm the bread in the oven after turning off the heat.)

Serve the artichoke antipasto hot or warm, sprinkled with minced parsley. Spoon or spread onto pieces of warm bread or crackers.