Boursin-Style Cheese Dip

I used the Boursin Cheese recipe from Food.com, and added a few more ingredients to make a slightly softer cheese spread.  This is great with crackers, flat bread or fresh veggies.

Ingredients:

8 oz butter, at room temperature
8 oz cream cheese, at room temperature
2 Tbsp mayonnaise
2 Tbsp plain yogurt (unsweetened, full-fat)
3 Tbsp grated fresh Parmesan cheese
1 tsp dried dill weed
1⁄2 tsp dried marjoram
1⁄2 tsp basil
1⁄2 tsp chives
1⁄2 tsp black pepper
1⁄2 tsp dried thyme, crumbled
2 Tbsp minced fresh parsley or 1 heaping Tbsp dried parsley
1 1/2 tsp garlic powder

Instructions:

Blend the butter, cream cheese, mayo, yogurt and parmesan cheese until smooth. Dump in all spices and mix well.

Can use immediately, but tastes better if it sits for a half hour or so.

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Rosemary Focaccia

Yesterday, Ree Drummond (the Pioneer Woman) featured a simple Rosemary Focaccia bread.  It was a cold, dreary afternoon and the thought of warm bread baking for supper was just irresistible. Plus, I had everything I needed to make it, since I brought my herb pots into the sunroom for the winter.

I served it with Ina’s Eggplant Gratin and both were easy and delicious.  In fact, I’m munching on leftover Focaccia this morning, warmed in the toaster and smeared with a little butter.

I made the recipe exactly as directed – only pulled it out of the oven after 25 minutes since it was golden brown.  This recipe looks complicated but it’s actually pretty simple.

Dough Ingredients:

4 1/2 cups unbleached all purpose flour
2 Tbsp Olive Oil plus more for greasing the bowl and the pan
2 tsp dry yeast
2 tsp sugar
2 tsp kosher salt
1 1/2 cup warm water

Dump all in a mixing bowl. If you have a mixer, use the paddle and switch to the dough hook once it’s mixed. Let the dough hook run for several minutes, watching it as the dough will want to creep up the hook.

Remove the dough to a floured surface and knead gently until it is smooth and not sticky. (I may have used more flour – my dough wasn’t too sticky.) Rinse out the mixing bowl, dry it and spread olive oil all around it. Pop the dough back in, wiggle it around a second and the flip it over so all surfaces are oiled.

Cover it with oiled plastic wrap and set in a warm place to rise until doubled, about 1 hour.

Prepare topping ingredients:

1/4 cup plus 3 Tbsp Olive Oil
3 Tbsp chopped fresh Rosemary
Fleur de Sel (I used Maldon – but Kosher salt would be fine, too.)
Crushed Red Pepper to taste (couple of pinches)
Cornmeal as needed (a couple of Tbsp?)

After dough has risen, preheat oven to 400 degrees. Lay a piece of parchment paper on a cookie sheet or shallow roasting pan, and spread 1/4 cup of olive oil around on the pan. Sprinkle cornmeal evenly. Take dough and gently stretch it into a rectangle shape.

It’s a little easier if slide the parchment out of the pan and use a rolling pin to flatten the dough.  Just be sure to roll from the outside in so you don’t end up with a thick edge, and keep the size so it will fit back in the pan.

Then slide it all back into the backing pan, and cover it with an oiled piece of plastic. (I just flipped another roasting pan over it), and let rise for 20 minutes.

Remove the wrap (or pan), and poke holes every few inches. Pour the 3 Tbsp olive oil over the top, and sprinkle the rosemary, red pepper and Fleur de Sel over it.

Bake it for 25 minutes. It’s done when it’s golden brown. Cool on a wire rack.  (The original recipe called for baking 30-35 minutes.)  Yum.

Apricot-Orange Almond Goat and Cream Cheese Log

It always seems like we’re noshing all day when everyone is home, and I wanted to try something different for New Year’s Eve. I made a version of Jenn Laughlin’s cheese spread and it was ridiculously delicious, and also so easy!

Ingredients

8 oz. cream cheese, at room temperature
1/4 cup crumbled feta cheese
1/3 cup almonds, crushed (I used Trader Joe’s Sesame Honey Almonds, but you can use regular salted almonds, or other slightly-sweetened almonds.)
1 Tbsp chopped fresh parsley (I used flat leaf parsley) or Basil
1/4 cup Sarabeth’s Orange Apricot Marmalade
4-5 dried apricots, chopped
honey for drizzling

Blend the cream cheese and feta cheese.

In a gallon zip lock bag, pound the almonds until they are crushed. (I used a wooden potato masher.) Add the parsley and apricots.  (I was out of apricots so I skipped them.)

On a long, narrow plate, carefully spoon out the Orange Apricot preserves. (We love Sarabeth’s Orange Apricot Marmalade, but you could use 1/2 apricot preserves, and 1/2 marmalade.)  I might use a big more marmalade next time, or try warming it and drizzling it over with the honey.

Carefully cut the top off the bag of nuts and parsley. Gather the cheese mixture into a roughly long log shape and drop it into the nuts mixture. Press the mixture into the bottom of the log, and then carefully rotate the log to get nuts on all side. You can also square up the ends of the log, and press nuts into them.

Carefully remove the cheese log and place it on the marmalade.  Drizzle lightly with honey. Garnish with a few parsley leaves, and serve with hearty crackers or slices of Granny Smith apples.

Jenn Laughlin says it’s also great with fig preserves.

Crudites with Dip

Made this for Thanksgiving 2007, and 2013. I think the dip is originally a Martha Stewart recipe. Part of the fun is to have lots of different, interesting vegetables. I gathered lots of little clear glass containers for the veggies and put them on a tray, with the dip in the center. Prepping the veggies take a little time but it’s worth it. You can also serve hummus with roasted red pepper.

green beans, tips cut off and blanched
thin asparagus, trimmed and blanched
celery sticks
jicama sticks
cucumber spears
scallion sections
baby carrots
grape tomatoes
yellow squash spears
zucchini spears (Both the yellow squash and zucchini are surprisingly good with dip.)

Arrange in glasses and bowls and serve with dip, below:

1 cup sour cream
2 Tbsp buttermilk
1 tsp freshly-ground black pepper
1/4 tsp salt
2 tsp minced chives
1/2 tsp fresh thyme leaves
1 large shallot, finely diced

Mix all in a large mason jar and refrigerate until just before serving. (Note, I didn’t write down salt when I wrote the recipe, but I’m certain I added some. Taste and add salt as needed.)

Note: blanching vegetables is super easy. It just means slightly cooking vegetables. I use a deep basket shaped strainer that I got an an Asian grocery store, but you can just do it with tongs if you don’t have a strainer that fits in your pot.

Here’s how you do it. Bring a medium sized pot of generously salted water to the boil, and have another large bowl of ice water close by.

Put veggies in very briefly, maybe 2 minutes. Remove and plunge veggies into ice water for a few minutes, until they don’t feel warm anymore. This softens them up just a bit without losing their crunch. It also keeps the colors nice and bright.

Texas Caviar with Avocados

We had this at our friend Dot and Johns’s New Year’s Eve party and I couldn’t stay away from it. It’s a wonderful appetizer, especially for me since I find appetizers challenging.

2 cans black beans, rinsed and drained
2 tomatoes, diced
1/4 cup jalapenos, seeded and diced
1 cup Italian salad dressing
dash of cayenne pepper
2 avocados, diced

Mix all above and serve with scoopy corn chips.

Colleen’s Blue Cheese Cheesecake

This savory cheesecake is a specialty of my friend Colleen, who is such an amazing cook. It’s a beautiful appetizer (something I’m normally terrible at) and perfect for potlucks.

Most people are familiar with sweet cheesecake so this cheesy, tangy one is something totally new.    Colleen puts it on a large platter garnished with pretty globe grapes and serves it with crackers.  (She makes it with light cream cheese, light sour cream and light mayonnaise, and it’s delicious, too – so you can do that if you wish.)

Crust:
3/4 cup crushed club crackers (18-20 crackers)
2 Tbsp butter, melted

Mix in a bowl and press into one large or two smaller springform pans. Bake at 350 for 10 minutes.

Mix:
2 8 oz. packages of cream cheese
8 oz. of blue cheese
1 cup sour cream
2/3 cup mayonnaise
3 eggs

Blend all ingredients very well and pour into baked crust. Smooth the top and bake at 300 for another 45 minutes. ( Check at 40 minutes if  you’re making two smaller ones.) Remove from oven and let rest one hour. Gently loosen edge with a butter knife and chill the cheesecake for several hours.

To serve, just remove the sides of the springform pan, and place the cheesecake on a large platter, with crackers and globe grapes. This would probably also be delicious with sliced apples.