Grate. Pair. Share. Holiday 2014

Page 27

Don't Drop the (Cheese) Ball from Your Holiday Menu! By Colleen Levine and Jill Lewis

Feta & Dukkah Spice Cheese Ball Servings: 12

Ingredients: Dukkah spice mix: 1/4

cup hazelnuts

2

tablespoons coriander seed

1 1/2 tablespoons sesame seeds 1

teaspoon black peppercorns

1/2

teaspoon cumin seeds

1/2

teaspoon salt

Cheese ball: 8

ounces Wisconsin cream cheese, softened

8

ounces Wisconsin feta cheese, crumbled

1

tablespoon honey

Directions: In skillet over medium-low heat, toast hazelnuts. Remove from heat and set aside. Repeat with coriander seeds, sesame seeds, peppercorns and cumin seeds. Allow to cool. Combine nuts and seeds in bowl of food processor with salt. Process until ingredients are crushed and well combined. Set aside. In bowl of electric mixer, combine cream cheese, feta and honey. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour. Shape cheese mixture into ball. Roll in dukkah spice mixture. Serve with pita chips or radishes.

Cheese balls have always had a place on holiday party menus, but we had no idea how popular they are until we posted a recipe on our blog, Cheese and Champagne, six years ago. We thought a couple of retro cheese recipes would be a fun addition to the blog during the holidays, so Jill did a post on fondue and Colleen developed a cheese ball inspired by local flavors. That one recipe would become one of our most visited posts for years to come! So what makes cheese balls so appealing? They’re easy to make, require relatively inexpensive ingredients and allow wide latitude for creativity. With a base of plain cream cheese, cheese balls can carry almost any flavor easily—sweet or savory. And even if you want to include artisan cheese as one of your ingredients, you don't have to use a large quantity, which stretches your cheese dollar even further. So use this holiday season to experiment with some new cheese ball concepts—you may develop a real winner if you keep these tips in mind: ›› Use a soft base. A block of cream cheese works well, but avoid whipped versions, which won't have the right structure to shape the ball properly. Quark is another good option. ›› Cheese balls are a great way to use up the condiments and other ingredients in your refrigerator that you haven't used much throughout the year. Have any leftover jam from a dessert recipe you made over the summer? Use as a topping for a sweet cheese ball that pairs with graham crackers. ›› Look to your favorite dishes for inspiration. Latkes sparked our idea for a potato chip-crusted cheese ball one year! ›› Think creatively when it comes to dippers. Crackers are just the beginning—other options include pretzel rods, Europeanstyle biscuits, veggie chips or fruit slices. Hands down our favorite part of serving a cheese ball? Watching guests gather around the table to dig in. Colleen Levine and Jill Lewis blog about all things cheese, with a focus on American artisanal cheese, at Cheese and Champagne.