More Cheese, please….

I have to confess, I’m a big cheese fan and the holidays are coming. Yes, the two are connected – what other time of year can you count on for cheese in some form or another everywhere you go? You’ll see it in cubes and on crackers, diced and in slices, in dips, with chips on display for the snackers.  Plan on cheese in parfaits, in breakfast and spreads, in salads, in sandwiches and gift baskets ahead.

My friends are rolling their eyes about now since it is July and I’m already thinking about the holidays. But they know I’ve got a planning gene, and in my way of thinking the best way to ensure maximum cheese exposure is to start planning now.

I will surely be making a Baked Goat Cheese Dip, a proven winner on the holiday table. Just three ingredients – four if you include some sort of garnish – are all it takes and you’re on your way to stardom. Start with 2 – 8 oz. logs of soft goat cheese in a baking dish that you can serve in. Crumble one log and pour half of a 24 oz. jar of a good marinara sauce over cheese. Crumble remaining log and add more marinara to taste (I usually use about 16 – 18 oz of sauce).  Bake at 350 degrees until brown and bubbly, about 20 – 25 minutes.  Serve with thin slices of crusty bread or garlic toast.  Something green, like torn fresh basil or parsley makes a nice garnish.

I also plan on sliced soft Goat Cheese on Crostini (aka garlic toast) topped with fig jam and a salty ham like prosciutto, finished with a drizzle of honey.  Then there is ricotta cheese with so many uses – it makes a nice spread with a little honey, a touch of vanilla and pinch of salt mixed in (some add grated lemon zest). I serve this with fresh berries, or on breakfast waffles along with some chopped pecans, fresh orange slices and a sprinkle of cinnamon for a tasty and pretty presentation.  Soft goat cheese mixed in equal parts with cream cheese is a good base for mini sandwich spreads that are easily changed up by layering with various jams and jellies, sundried tomatoes packed in oil, chopped nuts, pesto, or chopped olives. Red pepper jelly and toasted pecans is a favorite combination. The goat cheese and cream cheese mixture works as a dip for bread sticks as well, that have been wrapped in a thin slice of ham.

A Holiday Buffet Star – Gorgonzola and Pear Spread with Pistachios

Nuts are abundant during the holidays, too. I take 2 pecan halves and stick them together with the goat cheese / cream cheese mixture and slices of guava paste. Then there is the Gorgonzola and Pear Spread, pictured above, a buffet magnet if there ever was one. The simplified version is to take ½ – 1/3 cup crumbled gorgonzola cheese, 8 oz. cream cheese, 2 oz. sour cream and one drained can of pears in 100% juice (save juice).  Combine cheeses and sour cream at room temperature. When soft add about 2 tablespoons of pear juice or more to taste and mix well. If you have it, add some chopped pieces of pear paste (available in Whole Foods and some grocery stores). Add chopped pears, saving a few for garnish with other fruit and chopped nuts, if desired. Serve with some nice quality crackers. While I’m thinking of it, you can substitute the pear theme in this spread with fig preserves and fig paste, or other fruit combinations.

For a quick dessert, combine cream cheese and peanut butter (2:1 ratio), add some maple syrup to taste, and thin if needed with a little whipping cream for a no-bake parfait. Top with real whipped cream and drizzle with maple syrup for an incredibly rich and creamy dessert. Here’s another – combine Greek yogurt (about 1 cup) with 2 tablespoons of cream cheese or mascarpone, a teaspoon or two of brown sugar and a squeeze of lime juice. Adjust flavors as needed then drizzle over fresh chopped mango and sprinkle with crumbled ginger cookies and flaked coconut. Serve in layers in a parfait glass for some holiday class.

You can substitute mascarpone for cream cheese, or Neufchatel in any of the recipes above, and know that we’ve not even scratched the surface of ways to use these cheeses. Look for obsessive ways with Parmesan and other cheeses in blogs to come. Season’s greetings! It will be here before you know it.

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2 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Deb G on July 9, 2012 at 6:51 am

    Beautiful food pics Joy! And a whole blog post on cheese – I love it in all forms and can probably consume my weight in cheese. I will definitely be revisiting this post for the holidays for some wonderful tasty treats.

    Reply

  2. Posted by Lois Szydlowski on July 13, 2012 at 4:58 pm

    Your recipe for the gorgonzola cheese spread with pears sounds really good…I could live on cheese, bread and wine and be happy forever!…ok, throw in a few pieces of fruit and some artichoke spinach dip for vegetable!…and Broccoli Rabe with pasta is always good….

    Reply

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