Thursday, July 10, 2008

Herbed Cream Cheese

With the abundance of herbs popping out in my garden, I remembered a homemade herbed cream cheese recipe that used a generous amount of greenery. I have made this recipe many times and it is a versatile one that can accommodate whatever fresh herbs are in season. When I make it in the winter, I pull out snipped chives and basil from my freezer and grind up dried rosemary, oregano and thyme in my mortar and pestle, but for summer, a nice combination of snipped fresh herbs is just heavenly and puts the clean, green taste of herbs front and center.

I have a good bit of volunteer dill and lots of other perennial herbs planted throughout my vegetable and flower patch, so I pulled out one of my favorite French cookbooks, "A Provencal Kitchen in America", by Suzanne McLucas (Boulder, CO: Johnson Books, 1982) for the basic bones of the recipe and then riffed off of that. This cookbook is one I use a lot as it has many Mediterranean recipes focused on seasonal fruits and vegetables. The cookbook also grades recipes by degree of difficulty, so it is easy to run through and see which recipes fit your repertoire of cooking skills.

I brought this appetizer with some crackers to a Fourth of July party and it was scooped up quickly by adults and kids alike, so I think you all may enjoy it too. It's easy to make and transport to boot.

Herbed Cream Cheese

2 (8 oz.) packages cream cheese, softened (I used one low-fat cream cheese and one regular cream cheese)
1 stick butter (1/2 cup), softened
2 cloves garlic, run through a garlic press or very finely minced
2 Tbsp. EACH snipped fresh herbs: dill, parsley, basil, thyme, lemon balm, chives (in winter use 1-1/2 tsp. EACH dried herbs of your choice, ground in mortar and pestle)
Salt and pepper to taste
Splash of white wine, lemon juice or milk to moisten just a little bit

Mix cream cheese and butter together. Add garlic and herbs and mix thoroughly. Season to taste with salt and pepper and add just enough liquid to make the cheese mixture a bit more spreadable.

Form into a circle or ball and adorn with snippets of herbs, cracked pepper, or spices. Cover and chill in refrigerator for at least 2 hours to let harden.

Serve at room temperature.

This makes enough for a crowd (20 people), so you may want to halve the recipe for a smaller gathering.

I am submitting this recipe for the current round of Weekend Herb Blogging, hosted this time by Briciole, an interesting food blog that illustrates Italian cooking terms with delicious results. Weekend Herb Blogging is a cooking event started by Kalyn's Kitchen which is now in its third year, and which highlights herbs and other unusual plant ingredients.


Kalyn Denny said...

This sounds very similar to something my mother used to make, although in those days she always used dried herbs. I bet it is delicious with the fresh herbs!

Simona Carini said...

Such a timely suggestion! My herb garden is a bit on the wild side and herbed cream cheese is an ideal candidate for using them.

Anonymous said...

Fresh herbs make such a difference in the food you prepare ... I love my herb garden!


Dreams of cakes said...

This recipe really sounds delicious. Thanks for sharing!