Monday, May 18, 2015

New Cheese Ball or Spread for an Open House

Guests enjoying the foods we prepared
Yesterday my good friend Tetiana, of Re/Max Preferred Choice here in Aberdeen, asked if I would come with her to help out with food for an open house she was hosting at 1620 Mel Ros. I had made little appetizer foods for an open house here last summer. Despite being a truly lovely home, it is still on the market as of today. Tetiana assured me she was making the foods this time, but would appreciate help with serving, while she was busy with potential buyers. Still, I wanted to bring something, so I elected to make a version of some little filled sweet peppers I had made for the holidays a while back. 

Little Sweet Peppers
I started out with the idea of making them just as I made the ones back in December of 2013, but true to form, I cannot even follow my own recipes, even if they were great. Those appetizers were wonderful. I used a cheese ball mixture but softened it to fill those little sweet peppers that are available everywhere now. In lovely colors of red, orange and yellow, and perfect sized for appetizers, they are really attractive. In reading the mixture I made for the cheese ball, I immediately thought of substitutions. And more substitutions. And pretty soon it was such a different recipe that here I am, writing about it. 
My Cheese Mixture in little Sweet Pepper halves

Cheese Balls and Variations

Cheese Balls come in so many types and styles that there is really no particular way to make them. Almost any cheese, as long as it is either a smooth, soft type like cream cheese, chevre, blue, Gorgonzola and the like, with something that can be shredded, like cheddar, Jack, Parmesan or others, can be bound together into a cheese ball. It seems that little individual cheese balls have started popping up lately in magazines and on TV, but I came up with this concept on my own a little over 2 years ago. I thought of making tiny individual balls for this Open House, but then remembered those little sweet peppers and went that direction instead. 
"Cheese Ball" Filled Sweet Pepper

Many recipes for cheese balls, if left to soften at room temperature, are also good as a spread, or can be if thinned a little with milk or oil. In this case, I opted to leave out the bacon and go for a more herbal mixture. It seems that cream cheese is a sort of universal "base" or binder for other things. I really wanted to use goat cheese, but chevre tends to be a little crumbly, so cream cheese came to the rescue once again. I had planned to use plain chevre and add my own herbs. I did add more of my own herbs, but while perusing the options at the local grocery, I decided on a 4 ounce log of lemon flavored chevre and a 4 ounce log of garlic and herb flavored chevre. Between these two, there would already be a tasty base for the mixture. Other things to add to a cheese ball are so numerous it hardly seems possible to ever cover them all. I chose dried cherries for a sweet note, and used dill and parsley as the extra herbs. 
Tetiana made these Mini Cheesecakes with Jam and Raspberry 

Though this new mixture was used to fill little sweet peppers, it could just as easily be formed into a ball and rolled in more herbs or nuts or cheese. Once chilled it is plenty firm enough to be used this way. Additions to this cheese ball recipe could be things like cracked black pepper (which I meant to use and forgot!), finely chopped fried bacon, nuts left in small chunks instead of ground. Cooked chicken could be finely chopped and added, or smoked salmon or trout. For more ideas see the recipe on my website here

If the mini sweet peppers are not available where you live, regular bell peppers of assorted colors would also work. They would need to be cut into approximately 1 1/2 x 2-inch sections. If the cheese mixture is fine enough, it could also be piped or scooped onto endive leaves, cucumber or zucchini medallions, celery sticks or even carrot coins. These ideas can be seen here.

Herbed Goat Cheese (Ball or Spread)

Herbed Goat Cheese Filled Sweet Peppers
makes enough to fill one (1 pound) bag of sweet peppers 

8 ounces chevre such as lemon and/or herb flavors
8 ounces cream cheese
1 1/2 - 2 tablespoons finely minced fresh dill
1 1/2 tablespoons finely minced fresh parsley
1/2 teaspoon lemon zest, or more, if desired
1/4 cup chopped scallions
1/4 cup chopped dried cherries
1/2 cup nuts, chopped or ground (I used walnuts)
1 pound bag mini sweet peppers

Allow the cheeses to soften at room temperature for about 1 hour. Place all the cheese into a bowl and with a hand mixer whip the cheeses until smooth. Add in all the remaining ingredients except the peppers and mix again to evenly distribute. 

Cut off stem end of the peppers, then slice them in half lengthwise. Remove any seeds and membranes. With a small knife, fill each pepper half and smooth evenly. They can be served as is, or topped with a dill or parsley sprig. if desired.

If making a cheese ball, once all the ingredients are well blended, allow the mixture to firm up in the fridge. Once firm, scrape all the mixture together and roll into a ball. Roll the ball in one of the following: ground of chopped nuts, minced herbs (for this recipe, a combination of more minced dill and parsley), or shredded cheese such as finely shredded Swiss, or Parmesan or Romano.

My passion is to teach people how to create a harmony of flavors with their cooking, and help pass along my love and joy of food, both simple and exotic, plain or fancy. I continue my journey in ethnic and domestic cuisines, trying new things weekly. I would love to hear from you, to help me continue my journey to explore diverse culinary experiences and hopefully to start you on a journey of your own. Join me at A Harmony of Flavors Website and Marketplace, Tumblr, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.