Sometimes at a restaurant someone will order artichoke dip as an appetizer, and say something when it arrives like, "You gotta try this! It's really good!"
The dip is often not bad, but it's not anything like this recipe, which I got a decade ago or so, in grad school, from a friend. She got it from her mother, who found it in a cookbook called something like One-Step Delicious Dishes Using Processed Foods, with most of the ingredients being, well, pre-processed in some way or another. In this case, the ingredients were:
one large can artichoke hearts, drained and quartered
one half cup mayonnaise
one half cup grated parmesan cheese
one teaspoon pre-minced garlic
coarse ground pepper to taste
Mix all ingredients in oven-proof casserole dish, taking care to mash artichokes. (Wipe any spills or smudges from the rim and sides of the dish or you'll end up with baked-on crud you'll have to soak for days to remove.) Bake at 350 degrees for 30-40 minutes or until top is golden. (A sludge of oil may also appear on the top.) Serve with crackers, bagel chips, or fresh bread. I typically double recipe and use four or five cloves of freshly minced garlic. You can also add other kinds of cheese if you like, but I prefer it with just the parmesan.
I made this for a party following my dissertation defense. My friend Matthew flew from Luxembourg to attend the defense and help me with the party (how's that for devotion!) and he commented that he had an artichoke dip recipe much like this, only it wasn't baked, and that baking made a lot of difference. It really does: the cheese gets all melty, the flavors and substances blend, and the garlic mellows. However, once it has been baked, it's also pretty good cold, though it reheats easily in the microwave.
A year and a half later, I visited Matthew in Luxembourg/Brussels (he was dividing his time between the two places) and we made this dip for his birthday party. Failing to understand the spirit of the recipe--that it uses unassuming processed foods--he went out and bought fresh, locally made mayonnaise, fancy marinated artichoke hearts, and a big block of parmesan cheese, which he insisted that I grate, because he was busy doing other more demanding tasks. I was indignant about the extra work, but I had to admit, the better ingredients made for a more delicious dip. It was the first thing at the party to be entirely consumed, and towards the end, some people didn't even use bread or crackers to eat it--they just dug in with a spoon.
These days I bring it to the occasional pot luck and every time I do, there's someone who says, "Oh, is that that great artichoke dip you make?" I always tell them how easy it is and provide them with the recipe, but for some reason there are people who won't make a recipe that has about 500 calories per teaspoon and raises your cholesterol just by its existence. But if you're not such a person, I really recommend you try this dip. (And at least it's vegetarian, although not vegan.)