When I was growing up, my mom used to make a pasta from The Silver Palate cookbook with potatoes, rosemary, and dried apricots. There's something that even a middle schooler can enjoy about the oddly effective combination of rosemary and apricots.
You can make this cheese ball in advance -- say, today -- and keep it chilled. The flavors deepen the longer it sits, and it'll hold its shape better the colder it is. Cheese balls may be the one exception to the eat-your-cheese-at-room-temperature rule.
You might even have everything to make this cheese ball. If you don't, the recipe requires only five easy-to-find items. Active prep time is about 10 minutes, tops. Just like that, and this cheese ball could be yours. Tomorrow.
This cheese ball is great to serve with more dried fruit, seeded crackers, and nuts breads. Or to keep it lighter before a big meal, serve with cucumbers, endive spears, and hearts of celery. The base is quite plain, cheese-wise--cream cheese and fresh goat cheese-- and so the shallots and apricots really shine.
Apricot Goat Cheese Ball with Fried Rosemary and Shallots
8 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
4 ounces fresh goat cheese, room temperature
2 tablespoons finely chopped shallots
1 1/4 cups (packed) dried apricots, roughly chopped
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Vegetable or olive oil, for frying
6 sprigs fresh rosemary
In the bowl of a food processor, combine cream cheese, goat cheese, shallots and apricots. Process until well combined and season generously with salt and pepper to taste.
Scoop mixture onto a sheet of plastic wrap and form into a ball. Transfer to refrigerator and chill until very firm, at least two hours. Flavors infuse the cheese and deepen the longer you let the cheese sit.
In a small skillet over medium-high heat, heat oil. To test, drop one rosemary needle into the oil. It should sizzle furiously. In batches, fry rosemary sprigs until crisp, about 5-10 seconds per sprig. Transfer to a paper-towel lined plate and repeat with remaining sprigs. Season generously with salt and remove rosemary needles from stems. Discard stems.
Immediately before serving, remove cheese ball from refrigerator and reform into a shapely ball. Place rosemary needles on a work surface and roll cheese ball in needles to adhere. Serve immediately.
Nora Singley used to be a cheesemonger and the Director of Education at Murray's Cheese Shop. Until recently she was a TV Chef on The Martha Stewart Show. She is currently a freelance food stylist and private chef in New York City.
(Images: Nora Singley)