Pretty Dishes

Date and Blue Cheese Ball
November 12, 2010, 11:43 pm
Filed under: Recipes

Where to begin? Let’s dive right in. Things have changed in my world. Specifically, a few people with whom I regularly shared meals and food memories have moved away. The biggest loss to my culinary routine was, of course, M. My cooking pal, my dearest friend, one of my biggest blog cheerleaders has relocated to New Orleans to start a new and exciting chapter in life. I could not be more thrilled for her (or for my first visit to the city in February), but I’m certainly feeling the absence. There’s no doubt that it’s easier to photograph food when someone else is helping cook, and even more so than that, M’s creativity and enthusiasm in the kitchen is infectious and highly motivating. Cooking alone isn’t nearly as fun as doing so with or for other people (especially those who have a high appreciation for the process and the result; my husband isn’t one of these people so much), and so I have experienced a bit of a mental slump in the culinary department. But enough with the wistful flashbacks and the self-pity.

This recipe came to my attention as a direct result of M and her impending departure. There was a festive gathering in her honor, and I wanted to contribute a little appetizer or small bite. I had some dates in the pantry waiting to be put to use, so I did a search on Epicurious to see what inspired. I came across this cheese ball and was intrigued. M is a huge fan of 1940s and ’50s culture, so it seemed especially fitting. Turns out it was delicious and quite a hit. On top of that, it’s gorgeous. Even though the ingredients make for a pretty sizable ball, there wasn’t much left on the plate when it came time to leave. This spread is an excellent party contribution, especially when traveling (assuming it doesn’t get too warm); I’m considering making it again on Thanksgiving.

Date and Blue Cheese Ball

The old staple is back at it again . . . and more delicious than ever. This is best served at just about room temperature—if it comes straight out of the refrigerator it will be too cold and firm to spread or smear on a cracker.

8 ounces cream cheese (1 bar), at room temperature
1 cup crumbled blue cheese, at room temperature
1 tablespoon buttermilk or half-and-half
3 tablespoons minced Medjool dates (5 to 6 pitted dates)
1 tablespoon minced shallots
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
1/4 teaspoon kosher or sea salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
2 tablespoons minced fresh flat-leaf parsley
2 1/2 tablespoons finely chopped toasted pistachios or walnuts
Crackers, crostini, pita chips, rye toasts, or crudités, for serving

1. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat together the cream cheese, blue cheese, and buttermilk on medium speed until smooth and creamy, about 2 minutes. Add the dates, shallots, lemon zest, salt, and pepper, and beat until well combined.

2. Transfer the cheese mixture to a large sheet of plastic wrap and form it into a ball. Wrap the ball tightly and refrigerate until well chilled, at least 2 hours or overnight.

3. In a shallow bowl or plate, mix together the parsley and pistachios. Remove the cheese ball from the refrigerator. With the wrap still on, shape the cheese into a well-formed ball. Unwrap the cheese mixture and roll it gently in the nut mixture until all sides are well covered. Serve immediately or cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.

Speaking of Thanksgiving, I’ll be involved in three celebrations this year, one of which will be all my own—a first. I’ll be making a special gourmet meal for myself, my husband, and a friend. I’m thinking about a French-inspired menu, in which case I would feature at least French Onion Soup and Duck a l’Orange. I haven’t settled on what salad or other sides I’ll make yet, but I have a favorite green bean dish as well as shallot mashed potatoes that are contenders. What will you be serving?

In other news, I promised a little recap of my NYC trip. I had a wonderful time and ate very well. I won’t bore you with tales of every place I stopped, but there were a few food highlights. (As for photos, I don’t know if I’ll ever get over the “looking like a tourist” paranoia in restaurants, plus I only brought my point-and-shoot camera, so there isn’t much to post.) If you are visiting Manhattan and want to sample some amazing dishes, try the following:

Ginger Scallion Noodles at Momofuku Noodle Bar, Beef Carpaccio with Arugula at Gerrano, all the gelato at L’Arte Del Gelato (in Chelsea Market), Black Label Burger with Shoestring Fries at Minetta Tavern, various small plates (pear/radish salad, roasted beets with blue cheese, mussels and fries with garlic aioli, steak tartare with house potato chips) at Brindle Room, breakfast scramble and coffee at Mojo Coffee, and French Onion Soup at Les Halles (best I’ve ever had, hands down).

Also of note, the pain au chocolat in the Whole Foods bakery case is exceptional. Speaking of pain au chocolat, I just bought a copy of Artisan Breads Every Day by Peter Reinhart and fully intend to spend this winter perfecting croissants. A gal can dream anyway.

Purely coincidentally, I found myself near Momofuku Milk Bar and decided to stop in for a slice of the infamous Crack Pie. There’s no way I’d ever pay $44 to taste a whole one (especially since they are only ten inches across and maybe one inch deep), but I was willing to shell out $5.25 for a slice just to know. To compare. Honestly? I didn’t care for it. It didn’t taste any different to me than the one I made myself. In fact, I liked the crust I made better. I have a huge sweet tooth, but I just don’t like the mouthfeel of pure sugar rubbing against my teeth and gums—having a piece just reinforced my preference for something with a little more nuance. I’m happy I tried it, but I am satisfied to never have another piece. I will, however, try making the crust again for use with a cheesecake sometime this holiday season (maybe to cap off my French Thanksgiving?). I’ll report back, of course.

Finally, I am anticipating a few changes to this site, depending on feedback. One thing I’d like to do is add a page that maintains a recipe index for everything I’ve shared to date. At first it will probably just be a straight alphabetized list with links, but eventually I intend to categorize dishes by type for ease of finding.

Another change I am considering is updating more frequently with shorter posts, possibly without photos, about food, styling, photography, cookbooks, kitchen gear, and the like. Is this something you would be interested in? For example, I often add links to my Recipes to Try and Websites I Like lists without calling them out—would you prefer instead that I dedicated posts to this type of thing to alert you to changes? Would you like to hear about my latest tool crushes and dream kitchen fixtures? Leave a comment if you have any special requests or feedback that will make the site a more exciting destination. I appreciate it!


4 Comments so far
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I would definitely love a list of recipes! When I come on here, I’m sometimes looking for something specific, and I have to scroll backward, so LIST! LIST!

I also like the idea of shorter posts about tools and fixtures, etc. I don’t think you need to link to things you’re going to perhaps cook … just post when you cook them! Yea?

So, for Thanksgiving (just K and me) I’m pulling from a lot of stuff. I’m making America’s Test Kitchen’s Glazed Roast Chicken (it looked amazing! I’ll email you the recipe) and their homemade Green Bean Casserole (it is ’50s fabulous and so so so so good!). Then I’m making baked Sweet Potato Fries with Cajun Seasoning and for dessert the Pumpkin Chocolate Tiramisu from Martha’s Everyday Food mag. K gets frustrated with tiramisu because it usually has espresso/coffee in it (which he hates), BUT this one calls for almond liqueur. Excellent. Oh, I’ll also do a light green salad and either make stuffing or buy a baguette. Bread ROCKS in Nola. :) I’m excited to really do it up this year, as it is just the two of us. Usually I’m more traditional, but I think this menu is a nice combo of old and new.

Comment by meosima

Recipe index is live! It feels good to have that up and running.

As for your Thanksgiving plan, I can’t wait to hear the report on how everything turned out! Naturally, your menu sounds fantastic!

Comment by prettydishes

A recipe list sounds fantastic, and I’d love to hear about your tool crushes. If you ever need someone to chop, stir, snip, or whip during one of your culinary projects, I volunteer!

Comment by Brook

You are more than welcome to join me in the kitchen anytime, Brook! Let me know when you’re settled in and we’ll plan a fun cooking night.

Comment by prettydishes

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