By Rosie Hawthorne on December 9, 2019
I’m always on the lookout for Christmas appetizers that will add both a festive touch to the party and tantalize your taste buds. And I’ve come up with one – a mold of blue and cream cheeses, basil pesto, and sun-dried tomatoes. Sophisticated and savory, this colorful layered spread is perfect for your holiday parties.
Now, if you say, “Ewwwww, but I don’t like blue cheese,” then just stop and back up the truck. Because you do like blue cheese. You might just not know it yet.
If you’re a blue cheese novice, I suggest starting out with a mild blue cheese. I recommend Cambozola – it’s a combination of brie-like Camembert and Italian Gorgonzola, with the barest hint of blue veining. It’s smooth, not crumbly, and refined, not pungent.
It’s a brie with a subtle blue twist. Consider it the “bunny slope” of blues – the “gateway” blue cheese.
Cheese And Pesto Mold
Combine the softened cream cheese with the blue cheese. If you prefer a mild blue, I suggest Danish blue, Gorgonzola, or the above-mentioned Cambozola. Stilton and Roquefort would be on the strong end of the spectrum. I‘d advise going to a specialty cheese shop and taste testing various blues before buying. The 2:1 ratio of cream cheese to blue cheese is a starting point and is variable, so you can go as mild or as strong as you like.
For the pesto, you can use a jarred variety, but I prefer making my own and I always have chunks of frozen pesto from my “hurricane harvest.” Whenever a hurricane is coming, I strip the leaves off my garden basil plants, make a huge batch of pesto, and then spoon it into ice cube trays. Once frozen, simply pop out the cubes and store in freezer bags for year-round use.
If you’re making your own pesto, here’s how:
Process everything until well-combined, gradually adding in the olive oil until you get the consistency you like.
For the sundried tomatoes, there are two types – packaged hard, dried tomatoes and jarred tomatoes packed in oil. For the dried tomatoes, I pour boiling water over them, cover them, and let them soften for about 20 minutes. Drain and blot dry before using. For the oil-packed tomatoes, rinse the oil off in running water and blot dry. Finely chop the tomatoes.
To assemble: I used two 1-cup ramekins, but a small (5 ½ x 2 ½-inch) loaf pan would work as well. Line your molds with plastic wrap, leaving extra wrap hanging over the sides. Spread ⅓ of the cheese mixture evenly on the bottom. Next, spread ½ the pesto and arrange ½ the sun- dried tomatoes on top. Repeat with ⅓ of the cheese and the rest of the pesto and tomatoes. Finish with the remaining ⅓ of the cheese. Cover with the overhanging wrap and refrigerate overnight.
To serve: Let mold sit at room temperature for about 30 minutes and then invert onto serving platter. Arrange assorted crackers around and provide a cheese-slicing knife.
Alternate serving method: Provide slices of crostini (toasted bread, but use the good deli baguettes, not pasty sandwich bread). Spread cheese mixture on crostini and top with pesto and tomatoes.
Enjoy and Merry Christmas!