Artichoke dip two ways

Civita's version (with cannellini beans and prosciutto)
Artichoke hearts, drained, 1 can
Olive oil, 1 tbsp
Green onions, chopped (2)
Garlic clove, chopped (1)
Prosciutto, thinly sliced, finely chopped, 1 slice
Balsamic vinegar
Cannellini beans, 1 can
Pesto, 1 tbsp
Hot red pepper flakes, 1 pinch
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Amy's version (with fresh mozzarella)
Marinated artichoke hearts, drained but not rinsed, 12 oz  - these absolutely MUST be marinated or your dip will be quite bland
Garlic cloves, crushed and finely chopped (2-3)
Olive oil
Double or heavy cream, 1/2 cup
Mozzarella di bufala, or other fresh (water-packed) mozzarella, drained and squeezed, then diced, 6 oz
Hot red pepper flakes, 1 tsp
Balsamic vinegar, 1/4 cup
Sugar, 1/4 cup
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
Crusty bread

Serves: 4-6, depending on the circumstances

Civita's version
1. Sauté garlic, onion, and prosciutto lightly in olive oil.
2. Add pesto, beans, and artichoke hearts. Sauté 2-3 min.
3. Purée in food processor until quite smooth.
4. Add red pepper flakes, salt and pepper to taste. Blend.
5. Pour into ovenproof dish.
6. Drizzle with balsamic vinegar and heat.
7. Serve over crostini.

Amy's version
1. Reduce balsamic vinegar and sugar to a nice syrup and set aside. (I am well-known to screw this step up and burn it, so I will not try to guide you further.)
2. Sauté the crushed garlic in olive oil until soft and fragrant.
3. Add the artichoke hearts and sauté for 5 minutes.
4. Remove from heat and purée in a food processor. 
5. Return to pan, adding cream and stirring through.
6. Add salt, pepper and hot red pepper flakes.
7. Gradually stir in mozzarella, allowing to melt through (it will get stringy - keep stirring and add more cream if necessary to get it melted through - though still stringy).
8. Layer with balsamic reduction in a serving dish, if serving as a dip. Otherwise, spread on top of crostini and drizzle with balsamic reduction.

The story: Clearly this is not another spinach and artichoke dip. For one thing, there's no spinach. Nor crab for that matter. And don't even think about using cream cheese.

I first had something that vaguely resembled this dip on crostini at the restaurant OXO in Charlottesville, Virginia. It was a bit of a favorite at university, before a friend whose roommate was a chef heard through the grapevine (and perhaps inaccurately) that the ingredients were not as fresh as you'd expect from an expensive French restaurant in a foodie town. But before learning that, I always enjoyed my meals there and memorably celebrated the start of my fourth year at OXO with my mom, feeling deliciously grown-up, though still too young to legally order wine. 

In any case, I went home to visit my parents not long after this particular dinner and described the dish to my mom, who set about trying to recreate it. (She has always had an amazing knack for identifying flavors in dishes she's ordered, which extended to concocting a flawless recipe from my inexpert description.) The spectacular result was the first recipe, which slowly evolved into the second recipe. 

I can't remember how the mozzarella was first incorporated, but I think I started using fresh mozzarella when I arrived in Oxford as a graduate student and found it was easily available in the Covered Market - more easily, in fact, than the fake, part-skim, pre-shredded variety found so readily in American grocery stores. (In all fairness, it could also have been when I started shopping at the Dekalb Farmers Market in Decatur, Georgia, before I moved to England.) It became a staple of meetings of my college's Romance Novel Reading Society (oh, yes) and is a consistent hit at any sort of gathering.  
Sunrise over Charlottesville, February 1999

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