New Years Eve Quartet of Entertaining Spreads

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I know I’m late for New Year’s Eve, but I didn’t finish these four spreads until just now. Where oh where did the week go?  And only two hours until 2010!

Nevertheless, I want to share these with you in hope that perhaps you can whip up one or two for tomorrow’s gatherings of friends and family around that big screen TV. They are all very easy and you probably have the needed ingredients in the frig. Well, maybe not the cold-smoked salmon, but if there is a Trader Joe’s nearby, they have a 4-ounce package for a modest price.

The recipes below are starting points. Once you understand the basic formula, you can create endless new combinations. Although I am emphasizing entertaining spreads to be served with crudités and artisan crackers for this post, I use these same or similar spreads for tiny, open-faced, English tea sandwiches. They are very versatile.

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I like to layer the spreads and their garnishes in clear glass containers so that the colorful components are fully visible. You can also layer the spreads in small plastic wrap-lined springform pans or individual, removable-bottom cheesecake pans. In this case, the spread will be free standing when you serve it, which is quite lovely. The only caveats here are to make the non cream cheese layers quite thin and to go for low and wide, rather than tall and narrow. Otherwise the structure may not hold its shape after standing for awhile at room temperature.

NOTE For a super light rendition of any of the following spreads (especially effective for tea sandwiches or even for chip dips but not applicable for free-standing), after processing 1 pound of cream cheese until smooth and fluffy, add ½ cup heavy cream and continue processing until the cream is whipped and the mixture is noticeably fluffier. I know it sounds odd, but yes, cream will whip when combined with cream cheese. Just don’t try whipping it with any other ingredients. You may have to alter the order of the steps in the recipe to accommodate this added step.

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Gorgonzola or Chevre Spread

This spread is a mainstay in the OtherWorldly Kitchen. This girl loves her artisan crackers and homemade cheese spread snack on late winter afternoons, just as the light is starting to wane. I throw whatever bits of soft cheese are hanging out in the frig into the mix–typically gorgonzola, stilton, blue, or chevre. Firmer cheeses, such as cheddar or jack will also work.

2 cups (1 pound) best-quality cream cheese, cut into 1-inch cubes
3-6 tablespoons (1-2 ounces) crumbled gorgonzola or fresh goat cheese
1 large clove garlic, peeled and pressed or minced
¼ teaspoon fine sea salt

Garnish
½ cup (3 ounces) chopped sundried tomatoes in olive oil
½ cup (1½ ounces) chopped toasted walnuts

  1. In a food processor, process the cream cheese until smooth and creamy. Stop the machine and check to make sure all there are no remaining lumps in the cream cheese.
  2. Add the cheese, garlic, and salt, and pulse until smooth and incorporated.
  3. Spoon one-third of the spread into a 2-cup glass serving container (or two 1-cup containers), top with one-half of the sundried tomatoes, one-third of the spread, all of the walnuts, one-third of the spread, and the final one-half of the sundried tomatoes.
  4. Cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate until ready to serve.
  5. Serve with crudités and/or a variety of crackers or crostini.

Makes about 2 cups (excluding the garnish).

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Smoked Salmon & Caper Spread

This is one spread I can’t keep around the OtherWorldly Kitchen. MauiJim always finds it hidden at the back of the frig and powers right through it. Well, OK, I eat my fair share as well. If you bring out the entire 2 cups surrounded by crudités and crackers, and don’t pay attention, you are likely to eat the entire lot. So I serve only a small portion at any one time and try to pretend to myself that there is no more in the frig.

I adore celery crudités with this spread. You might also try serving a teaspoon or so of the spread on the wide end of endive leaves. It makes an elegant appetizer, leaves fanned out on a serving platter.

This spread is also a great way to indulge in a luxury ingredient without breaking the bank. Trader Joe’s carries 4-ounces packages of Nova-style smoked salmon for under $5.00.

4 ounces cold-smoked (Nova-style) salmon
2 cups (1 pound) best-quality cream cheese
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon capers
1 clove garlic, peeled and minced or pressed

Garnish
2 tablespoons small capers, drained

  1. In a food processor, process the salmon until finely chopped.
  2. Add the cream cheese and process until smooth and creamy. Stop the machine and check to make sure there are no remaining lumps in the cream cheese.
  3. Add the lemon juice, capers, and garlic, and pulse until just combined.
  4. Spoon the spread into a 2-cup glass serving container (or two 1-cup containers), cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate until ready to serve. Just before serving, spoon the remaining 2 tablespoons of capers on top of the spread.
  5. Serve with crudités and/or a variety of crackers or crostini.

Makes about 2½ cups.

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Creamy Fire-Roasted Red Pepper Cheese Spread

I just made my first ever Pimento Cheese Spread (which I renamed Fire-Roasted Red Pepper Cheese Spread) and had to find out pronto how it would taste in a cream cheese spread. It’s fabulous. Now I can’t decide which I like better.

8 ounces best-quality cream cheese
1 cup Fire-Roasted Red Pepper Cheese Spread (coming soon)
2 ounces fire-roasted sweet red peppers, minced (1/4 cup minced)
½ teaspoon green Tabasco
¼ teaspoon fine sea salt

Garnish
1 cup toasted, chopped pecans

  1. In a food processor, process the cream cheese until smooth and creamy. Stop the machine and check to make sure all there are no remaining lumps in the cream cheese.
  2. Add the Fire-Roasted Red Pepper Cheese Spread, roasted peppers, Tabasco, and salt, and pulse until incorporated.
  3. Spoon one-half of the spread into a 2-cup glass serving container (or two 1-cup containers), top with one-half of the pecans, the final one-half of the spread, and the final one-half of the pecans.
  4. Cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate until ready to serve.
  5. Serve with crudités and/or a variety of crackers or crostini.

Makes about 2¼ cups (excluding the garnish).

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Pineapple Ginger Spread

This spread provides a nice contrast to other more savory appetizers or spreads. It is fruity, slightly sweet, and addictive.

2 cups (1 pound) best quality cream cheese, cut into 1-inch cubes
4½ ounces drained, crushed pineapple (from an 8-ounce can)
2 tablespoons minced sweet onion
2 tablespoons minced fresh ginger
finely grated zest of 1 large lime
3 tablespoons powdered sugar
1 tablespoon lime juice
¼ teaspoon vanilla
¼ teaspoon fine sea salt

Garnish
¾ cup dried cranberries, covered for 15 minutes with boiling water, drained well, and chopped

  1. In a food processor, process the cream cheese until smooth and creamy. Stop the machine and check to make sure all of the cream cheese is creamy.
  2. Add the pineapple, onion, ginger, orange zest, powdered sugar, lime juice, vanilla, and salt, and pulse until well incorporated.
  3. Spoon one half of the spread into a 2-cup glass serving container (or two 1-cup containers), top with one-half of the chopped cranberries, the final one-half of the spread, and the final one-half of the chopped cranberries.
  4. Cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate until ready to serve.
  5. Serve with a variety of crackers.

Makes about 2½ cups (excluding the garnish).

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About Susan S. Bradley

Intrepid cook, food writer, culinary instructor, author of Pacific Northwest Palate: Four Seasons of Great Cooking, and founder of the Northwest Culinary Academy.

Comments

  1. I will be trying these spreads for a weekend party. Would love to know where to find similar glass serving bowls….

  2. This is perfect for what I was looking for! I am hosting a bridal shower next weekend and I’ve been trying to find something different in dips or spreads and I think I hit pay dirt! Yeah! I’m sure I’ll have to improvise a bit. Thanks for posting, hope my version turns out ok! :)

  3. What a beautiful selection of appetizer spreads. I love the way you layered them.

  4. Lovely presentation. It makes you want to get out some crackers and have a bite! I will make these the next time we have friends over. Thank you!
    .-= Kate´s last blog ..Pork and Sauerkraut =-.

  5. Love these! So glad you posted them. Wishing you a Happy New Year and I hope 2010 is fabulous for you.

Trackbacks

  1. [...] a slightly different take on this southern specialty, check out the Creamy Fire-Roasted Red Pepper Spread that I posted for New Years last year. It combines this Pimento Cheese (the recipe below) with [...]

  2. [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Dani, Hire Containers. Hire Containers said: New Years Eve Quartet of Entertaining Spreads | LunaCafe http://bit.ly/5wO4Cv [...]

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