Curried Cheese Ball

Serves 15 to 20.

Note: Some people think they don’t like curry powder; they assume it’s spicy — but it’s spiced, not spicy. If you have those kinds of guests at a party, just call this a cheese ball and don’t mention the curry until after they’ve eaten a whole bunch and want to know the source of the unbelievable flavor. From “Great Balls of Cheese,” by Michelle Buffardi.

• 16 oz. cream cheese, softened

• 1 c. shredded sharp Cheddar cheese

• 1/4 c. chopped dates

• 1 tbsp. finely chopped sweet onion

• 1 tbsp. mango chutney, optional

• 1 1/2 tsp. mild curry powder

• Pinch coarse salt

• Pinch cayenne pepper, optional

• 1 c. chopped unsalted pistachios, toasted, for coating

• Crackers or crudités, for serving

Directions

Using a stand mixer or a bowl and a spatula, mix together the cream cheese, Cheddar, dates, onion, mango chutney, curry powder, salt and cayenne until combined. Form the mixture into a ball and cover with plastic wrap. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours or overnight.

Before serving, roll the cheese ball in the pistachios to coat. Serve with crackers or crudités.

Cheese Ball With Cumin, Mint and Pistachios

Serves 8.

Note: From Amanda Hesser in the New York Times.

• 1 c. cream cheese (8 oz.), softened

• 1/2 c. (4 oz.) goat cheese, softened

• 1 tbsp. lemon juice

• Grated zest of 1 lemon

• 1/2 c. grated Pecorino Romano

• 1 tsp. toasted and ground coriander seeds

• 1 tsp. toasted and ground cumin seeds

• 1/2 c. finely sliced celery hearts, with leaves

• 1/3 c. chopped mint

• 1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper

• Sea salt

• 1/3 c. salted pistachio nuts, coarsely ground

Directions

In a large bowl, beat cream cheese and goat cheese with a wooden spoon until creamy and light. Beat in lemon juice and lemon zest. Fold in Pecorino Romano, coriander, cumin, celery, mint and pepper. Season to taste with salt.

Lay a large piece of plastic wrap on counter. Using a spatula, scrape cheese mixture onto center of plastic. Pull up sides of plastic wrap and form cheese into a ball. Wrap tightly, place in a bowl and chill in refrigerator for at least 2 hours.

Pour ground pistachios into a shallow bowl. Unwrap cheese ball and roll it in nuts until coated. Lay ball on a serving plate, cover with plastic wrap and chill until ready to serve. A half-hour before serving, unwrap cheese ball and let it come to room temperature. Serve with very thin plain crackers.

Bits and Pieces Party Cheese Ball

Serves 8 to 10.

Note: Fish sauce (find it with Asian ingredients at the supermarket) offers the umami flavor to the dish; Worcestershire sauce or a little anchovy could be used instead. From “Deep Run Roots,” by Vivian Howard.

• 4 tbsp. good-quality salted butter

• 1 c. shredded sharp, flavorful cheese, in any combination that might include Gruyère, Cheddar or blue cheese

• 3 oz. fresh goat cheese

• 4 oz. cream cheese

• 1 heaping tablespoon finely chopped green onions

• 1/4 tsp. cayenne

• 1/4 tsp. fish sauce (see Note)

• 1 tbsp. lemon juice

• 1/3 c. chopped, salted roasted pecans

• 1 heaping tablespoon chopped flat leaf parsley

Directions

Allow the butter and cheeses to come to room temperature. They should sit out of the refrigerator at least 30 minutes.

Put the butter, cheeses, green onions, cayenne, fish sauce and lemon juice in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Beat until smooth, scraping down the sides of the bowl once or twice. It should take about 4 minutes.

Plop the mixture onto a piece of waxed paper and gently form into a ball. Place in the refrigerator for at least 15 minutes or until firm enough to work with.

Mix the pecans and parsley together on a large plate or a cutting board, then roll the cheese ball in the mixture. Cover any surfaces with a sprinkling of the mixture and pat into the sides until you have an evenly coated ball.

Wrap well in plastic wrap and refrigerate. When ready to serve, let the ball sit out for at least a half-hour to soften. Serve with good plain crackers or small toasts.

 

Chilly Penguin

Serves 15 to 20.

Note: If you prefer a sporty penguin, set this guy on two slices of red bell pepper to make him look like he’s skiing, but if you want your penguin to chill, set him on feet made from sliced carrots. From “Great Balls of Cheese,” by Michelle Buffardi.

• 16 oz. cream cheese, softened

• 4 oz. blue cheese

• 2 tsp. chopped shallots

• 1⁄4 tsp. coarse salt

• Dash hot sauce

• 1⁄2 c. poppy seeds, for coating

• 2 dark raisins, 1 almond, 1 carrot, 1 red bell pepper (optional), and 1 green onion, for decorating

• Crackers, for serving

Directions

Using a stand mixer or a bowl and a spatula, mix together the cream cheese, blue cheese, shallots, salt and hot sauce. Form the mixture into a ball and cover with plastic wrap; refrigerate for at least 2 hours or overnight.

Before serving, remove a 2-inch piece of the cheese mixture, roll into a ball, and set aside; this will be the penguin’s head.

Re-form the remaining cheese mixture into an egg shape. Cut out a triangle shape roughly the length of your cheese ball from a sheet of wax paper. Press the waxed paper into the cheese ball, with the widest part of the paper on the widest part of the cheese ball. Roll the cheese ball in the poppy seeds and set the ball on a plate. Slowly remove the wax paper; the ball should be covered in poppy seeds except for the penguin’s breast.

Set the head on top of the penguin’s body and add the raisins for the eyes and the almond for the beak. Slice off 2 equal-sized rounds of the carrot and arrange them on either side of the head as earmuffs. Connect the earmuffs with the green part of the green onion.

Using a vegetable peeler, peel 1 long strip off the carrot; wind this around the penguin’s neck as a scarf. Slice the remaining carrot into toes and arrange at the bottom of the penguin’s body to make its feet, or use two red bell pepper slices for skis. Serve with crackers.