Tina’s dip plants Italian flag in NW Ohio
Written by KAREN NADLER COTA Sentinel Lifestyles Editor
Wednesday, 04 September 2013 08:49
This week's Cook's Corner is fun because it packs a lot of flavor for not a lot of effort.
|Tina Martini with her 5-layer Italian dip and herbed Italian bread. (Photos: Shane Hughes/Sentinel-Tribune)
Tina Martini's 5-Layer Italian Dip seemed the perfect recipe for a beginning-of-the-year social gathering for a women's organization to which she belongs.
"It's the first time I made this," she said of the dip with pesto.
"I have a collection of stuff I use repeatedly, some of those proven recipes. I was just tired of doing the same thing over and over and reached for" a stack of cookbooks she doesn't normally turn to.
She found this dip recipe on the very first page of the "appetizers and beverages" section in The Ohio Magazine Community Cookbook, which she acquired in 2011.
"I grabbed it right away" precisely because it looked so easy.
Sure enough, the preparation time totaled less than half an hour, and that's including the 15 minutes required baking time.
Martini made a couple of substitutions.
"It does say serve with crackers, but I switched it to Italian bread; I just thought it lent itself to the Italian dip."
She came across a wonderful garlic/herb Italian bread that many brunch-goers figured she had baked from scratch or, at least, doctored on her own.
Her little surprise: the bread was actually something she found at the Bowling Green Wal-Mart.
The five layers of the dip itself are Parmesan cheese, cream cheese, pesto, pimento and mozzarella cheese - in exactly that order.
"Instead of mozzarella cheese, I used Italian-blend variety since I already had it in the house."
As best as Martini can remember, the Ohio Magazine cookbook was offered as a one-time premium for renewing her magazine subscription three years ago.
The cookbook "compiled more than 200 recipes from the Friends of Ohio Magazine" organization "and this one was submitted by someone named Bonnie Goldfarb."
Martini especially enjoys the seasonal issues of the magazine.
"Fall and spring, they have some really good recipes. I just like it because it's Ohio."
Martini believes two ingredients, in particular, make her dip work so well.
"I think the pesto is a little bit bitey, and so, I guess, is the Parmesan cheese, so it just lends it that Italian flair."
"I wasn't introduced to pesto until about five years ago, and discovered I really liked it."
She's used it in a breaded salmon with pesto dish that has become a family favorite.
Martini would recommend serving 5-Layer Italian Dip with any kind of Italian entree. "I'm sure it will go well with, like, a spaghetti dinner, or as an antipasto.
"I gave some to my daughter and she said she layered it on some salmon. I suppose you could also use it as a spread, or on chicken too."
She insists she's not a serious cook. "I'd rather eat the food than make it.
"When we play bridge or go someplace, I always take the easiest thing."
Still, she knows a thing or two about Italian cuisine and offers a few cautions for dip-makers:
• "I bought the regular pesto," which is a basil sauce in olive oil, "and I had to drain it; it was too runny. So drain it before you layer it."
• Be sure not to buy the creamy-style pesto by mistake.
• You also need to drain the pimentos.
• Plan to make the dip right before your dinner or party.
"It's better if you can eat it right away after it comes out of the oven." Otherwise, "the cheese kind of gels."
Martini grew up in Parma, Ohio, that most Italian of Cleveland suburbs. She came to Bowling Green to earn her bachelor's degree in education at the university, specializing in English, then taught at her old junior high in Parma.
Marriage to husband Joe brought the couple back to Bowling Green. Martini gave birth to two daughters, then taught part-time at Bowling Green Junior High from 1970 to 1973.
She switched gears to work in the registrar's office at BGSU, completing a 27-year university career by retiring in 2001 as director of transfer evaluation services.
Today Martini volunteers with the Black Swamp Arts Festival, Wood County Historical Society, the BGSU Retirement Association (BGSURA) and at church. She also produces her condo association's newsletter and reserves plenty of time for her three grandchildren.
5-Layer Italian Dip
1 (8-oz.) pkg. cream cheese, softened (I used Philadelphia 1/3-less-fat variety)
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese, divided
1/3 cup pesto (original with olive oil), drained
1 ( 4-oz.) jar chopped pimento, drained
1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese (may substitute Italian blend variety)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix cream cheese and 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese with an electric mixer on medium speed until well blended. Spread mixture on bottom of 9-inch pie plate or quiche dish. Layer pesto, pimentos, mozzarella cheese and remaining 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese over the cream cheese. Bake for 15 minutes or until thoroughly heated. Serve with crackers or sliced Italian bread.