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"It's so beautifully arranged on the the plate – you know someone's fingers have been all over it." – Julia Child

Posts from the Beverages Category

Salted Caramel Hot Chocolate

We know: it’s freezing. We’d offer to come over and snuggle, but, no way we’re leaving home today. Try our remedy instead!

 

SALTED CARAMEL HOT CHOCOLATE
A dark, rich, and perfectly seasoned elixir from our book,  Winter Cocktails

In this variation, sugar cooks down to an amber, bittersweet caramel that blends seamlessly into hot chocolate.
Cooking Tip: You will need a large saucepan for this recipe: the addition of cream to the caramel causes the mixture to bubble aggressively.

1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
3/4 cup water
6 tablespoons light corn syrup
1 cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon Maldon salt, plus additional for garnish
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 cup natural cocoa powder
3 tablespoons packed dark brown sugar
4 cups whole milk
6 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped, or chocolate chips
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

Ingredient Tip: Maldon salt is a sea salt whose large flakes are ideal for seasoning: they melt slowly but easily into warm items, and also provide a nice crunch and textural contrast. See page 000 for resources.

- Stir sugar and water together in large, heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium-high heat. Cook, swirling pan occasionally, until sugar turns dark amber and just begins to smoke, 6 to 8 minutes. Immediately add cream and salt, stepping away from pan while bubbling and sputtering subside. Reduce heat to medium and stir just until mixture is smooth. Remove from heat.

- Melt butter in medium saucepan over medium heat. Add cocoa and brown sugar and stir with whisk until a paste forms. Slowly add milk, whisking constantly. Whisk in caramel. Bring to simmer over medium-high heat, then, reduce heat to medium-low. Stir in chocolate and cook, stirring until chocolate is completely melted. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla.  Serve in warm cups and sprinkle with Maldon salt.

- Spike each serving with 1 1/2 ounces Amaretto per serving, if desired (trust us, you desire).

Serves 4

 

 

Holiday CocktailsHoliday Cocktails

Until recently, I thought one of the lines in “Have a Holly Jolly Christmas” was “Have a cup of GIN.” It’s actually a cup of “CHEER.” In my book, the words are interchangeable.

This Christmas we’re adding to cheer to our gatherings with Latin American versions of eggnog: rompope and coquito, and also, with an unexpected punch. All recipes are from our book, Winter Cocktails, and we’d like to share them with you and yours here.

ALSO! Listen to my spiel on Eggnog on NPR!  

ROMPOPE
serves 6 to 8

The first rompope, a derivation of Spanish ponche de huevo (egg punch), was brewed by seventeenth-century nuns in the Santa Clara convent in Puebla, Mexico. According to legend, Sister Eduviges requested that the nuns be allowed to drink the rompope they were only permitted to make. Legend also has it that there was one secret ingredient in the recipe that Eduviges took with her to the grave.

Rompope is served chilled, often over ice, but it can be served warm, which is how I prefer it when cold weather sets in. Either way, it’s rich, velvety, fragrant, and certainly full of cheer.

2⁄3 cup blanched almonds
11⁄2 cups plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar, divided
6 cups whole milk
2 cinnamon sticks
Rind of 1 lemon*
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1⁄4 teaspoon baking soda
8 large egg yolks
1 cup white rum or aguardiente**

*Remove the lemon rind with a vegetable peeler, being careful to avoid the white pith, which will impart a bitter flavor.

**Aguardiente literally means “burning water” in Spanish. It is a strong (29% or higher) spirit distilled from fruits, grains, and commonly sugarcane.
It’s available at most liquor stores; for additional sources, see page 156.

Pulse almonds with 2 tablespoons of the sugar in a food processor until ground to a fine paste.

Bring milk, cinnamon, lemon rind, vanilla, and baking soda to a boil over medium-high heat in a large heavy-bottom saucepan. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes. Set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk egg yolks, the remaining 1 1/2 cups sugar, and ground almonds until thick and pale. Remove cinnamon and lemon rind and discard. Whisking constantly, slowly add the milk to the yolk mixture.

Return mixture to pan and cook over low heat, constantly stirring and scraping the bottom and sides of the pan, until the mixture thickens enough to coat the back of a spoon, 5 to 7 minutes. Set aside to cool completely, about 2 hours.
Stir in rum or aguardiente. Serve.

COQUITO
serves 8 to 10

Coquito brings a refreshing and tropical twist to the winter season. Like rompope, it is traditionally poured and shared on nochebuena (Christmas Eve) and given out as a gift in festively wrapped bottles, but it will fit in at any holiday celebration. The recipe is similar to rompope, but with a few tweaks: sweetened condensed milk acts as a sweetener, evaporated milk takes the place of milk, and, of course, the island influence is asserted with coconut milk and rum.

1 (12-ounce) can evaporated milk 8 whole cloves
1 cinnamon stick
1 (2-inch) piece ginger, peeled and cut crosswise into thin rounds
1 (15-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
1 (13.5-ounce) can coconut milk*
1 cup white rum
4 large egg yolks
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1⁄4 teaspoon ground cinnamon, plus more for garnish
1⁄8 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg, plus more for garnish

*Do not substitute cream of coconut for the coconut milk, because the drink will be too sweet.

Bring evaporated milk, cloves, cinnamon, and ginger to a boil over medium-high heat in a small saucepan. Remove from heat and let steep for 30 minutes. Strain liquid through a fine-mesh sieve and discard solids. Let cool to room temperature, about 20 minutes.

Place spiced milk mixture, sweetened condensed milk, coconut milk, rum, egg yolks, vanilla, ground cinnamon, and nutmeg in a blender and blend until fully combined and foamy, 1 to 2 minutes.

Pour into chilled glasses and dust with additional cinnamon and nutmeg.

SWEET SURRENDER, a chamomile punch
makes about 13 cups (about 3 quarts), serves 24

This punch marries chamomile’s delicate floral notes to honey and champagne, with a dash of infused alcohol thrown in for good measure. The result is sure to soothe your winter-weary bones.

Ice mold*
1 (750-milliliter) bottle gin or vodka, chilled
2 cups brewed chamomile tea, chilled**
2 cups Honey Syrup, chilled***
1⁄4 cup fresh lemon juice, strained
2 (750-milliliter) bottles champagne, chilled

*To make the ice mold, fill a Bundt pan or medium metal mixing bowl with water and freeze until set. To unmold, run the container under warm water, just until the ice begins to loosen. Turn the mold over onto a surface covered with a clean kitchen towel to grip the container and lift it off the molded ice. Place the ice in punch bowl or other serving vessel as directed by punch recipe.

**To make chamomile tea, bring 2 1⁄2 cups water to a boil in a small sauce- pan. Add 1⁄2 cup dried chamomile flowers or 8 chamomile tea bags and allow to steep until mixture comes to room temperature. Strain through a fine- mesh sieve, pressing down on solids to release all liquid. Discard solids.

*** To make the honey syrup, combine 1 cup honey and 1 cup water in a small saucepan. Bring to a simmer over medium heat and cook, stirring, until honey is completely dissolved. Let cool to room temperature and store, refrigerated, in an airtight container. Makes 2 cups.

To make the punch: Stir gin or vodka, tea, syrup, and lemon juice together in a punch or other serving bowl. When ready to serve, stir in champagne and slide in ice mold. Serve.

winter cocktailswinter cocktailswinter cocktails

We’ve been celebrating the release of our book, Winter Cocktails , for a few weeks with book signings, demos, and most importantly,  with loud and punch-drunk parties at home and with friends who’ve supported us every step of the way. Celebrate with us at home with one of our cocktails, and share in our glee while you look at these pictures, graciously taken by photographer Shinsuke Kishima.

A special thanks to Penelope Bouklas and Emily Rickard our prop stylists, without whose magical touches and hawk-eyed attention to detail, our book wouldn’t be as sumptuous as it is. Thank you to Geraldine Pierson, who put up with a vast number of photos that needed to be scoured through and pruned. Thank you to Lea Siegel for getting us camera-ready for our portraits. Thank you to Benny Mouthon, who added sound to our video and also took the lovely portrait at the back of our book, catching us in all of our early-morning/no makeup glory.

Finally, thank you to Ed Levine, Kenji López-Alt, and Leandra Palermo at Serious Eats for hosting a great party and cheering us on. And, congratulations to old friend and Author of One Bowl Baking Yvonne Ruperti who celebrated her book with us, too.

Sandia

 

Sandia Drinks

 

It’s begun to sizzle and we’re starting to feel a trickle of salty sweat pooling in the nest of our lower backs. It sounds risqué, but it’s just plain hot and sticky, and all we can think of is: Cabana boy!!! Where’s my cocktail?

During the summer, watermelon and cucumbers are some of the coolest and most quenching of snacks. I usually keep big bowl chilling in the fridge, eating them plain, or adding salt, lime juice, and dried chile powder to the cucumbers. The combination is a great salad base, too – try them with a light lemon-lime-cilantro vinaigrette and cubes of seared haloumi.

And, naturally, the temptation to turn the duo into a cocktail proved irresistible. This refresher starts with muddled cilantro, mint, jalapeño, and sugar for a vibrant, herbal base with a sharp prick of heat. Watermelon and cucumber are pureed with ice into a slushy-like juice, and finally, fiery, floral pisco is stirred in. One sip and you’ll beat the heat.

WATERMELON-CUCUMBER REFRESHER
Serves 2

Note: If you prefer a cocktail with less heat, scrape out and discard the seeds and ribs from the pepper.

I always like a hit of salt to balance out sweetness; if using cucumber spears as garnish, lightly season them prior to serving.

Pisco is a potent grape brandy popular in Perú and Chile. I love it for its fiery burn and floral notes, but, this cocktail can also be made with your choice of spirit. I recommend tequila blanco, light rum, Hendrick’s gin, or vodka. Or, leave the booze out altogether and enjoy this as a summery smoothie.

¼ cup packed fresh cilantro leaves, plus sprigs for garnish
¼ cup packed fresh mint leaves, plus leaves for garnish
½ jalapeño pepper, chopped, plus rings for garnish
3 tablespoons granulated or raw cane sugar
Salt
2 cups (½-inch) dice watermelon (about 12 ounces)
¼ English cucumber, cut into ½-inch dice, remainder cut into spears for garnish
3 to 4 ounces pisco
Crushed ice, to taste

- Chill 2 (12-ounce) glasses by filling them with ice water and swirling them around for 2 to 3 minutes. Drain and discard the ice water and dry the glasses.

- Muddle the cilantro, mint, jalapeño, sugar, and pinch of salt in a shaker (use either a muddler or the back of a wooden spoon). The leaves should only be bruised, not completely smashed.  Divide the mixture between the two glasses.

- In a blender, pulse the watermelon, cucumber, and pisco until completely puréed. Add crushed ice and pulse once again to combine. Divide mixture between glasses and stir to gently combine. Garnish with cilantro sprigs, mint leaves, cucumber spears, and/or jalapeño rings. Serve immediately.

We’re no strangers to stiff drinks and bubbly, and admittedly, once in a while, the party goes on longer than expected and the next morning finds us with pillow-creased faces, raccoon eyes, and The Dreaded Hangover.

Usually, a greasy diner breakfast egg on a roll with extra bacon and half-bottle of ketchup plus a full pot of coffee (Mexican Coca-Cola on ice is my go-to) helps smooth us out, but a stronger antidote is sometimes absolutely necessary: enter the michelada, a spiced and seasoned Mexican beer cocktail.

The drink’s base is always a chilled pale lager, like Corona, Pacícifo, Sol, or Modelo Especial – you want something refreshing and light, save the hoppy dark stuff for the pub. The bracing backbone is provided by umami-dense Worcestershire sauce, hot sauce (Cholula and Valentina are our favorites), and a good amount of freshly-squeezed lime juice. A “cubito Maggi,” a bouillon cube made by Maggi (pronounced Ma-ghi) is a common addition and adds extra seasoning. You can skip the cubito, but do rub a lime around the lip of your glass and rim it with coarse salt, pepper, and if available, powdered red chili. And always, always, always pack your glass with crushed ice.

And, while we’re talking about getting pickled, I recently made Paula Deen’s pickled shrimp and thought they’d make a great side to the michelada. Our version has hotter-than-hell Serrano peppers, impossibly fragrant kaffir lime leaves, toasty fresh curry leaves, spices, and a hit of tequila.

Note: Of course, the michelada is also perfect for any sweltering day, not just a fuzzy morning. Try it this summer, and, for the condiment-phobic, mix up a chelada: salt rim, lime juice, ice, and beer.
¡Salud! And ¡Happy cinco de mayo!

MICHELADA

Serves 1

Note: For an extra frosty drink, chill your glass prior to assembling. For a quick cool-down, fill a glass with ice and water, swirl for 1 minute, then drain.

¼ cup fresh lime juice, plus lime wedges for garnish
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Worcestershire sauce, to taste
Hot sauce, such as Cholula or Valentina, to taste
½ Maggi bouillon cube (optional)
Crushed ice
1 (12-ounce) bottle of pale lager such as Corona, Pacífico, Sol, or Modelo Especial, chilled

- Rub a lime around the rim of a pint glass or equal capacity glass. Combine 1 tablespoon salt and 1 teaspoon pepper in small plate and dip rim in mixture, turning glass until rim is coated.

- Add lime juice, Worcestershire, hot sauce, and (optional) bouillon cube to glass and stir to combine. Add crushed ice, pour in beer, gently stir, and drink. Refill glass with beer as needed.
PICKLED SHRIMP

Makes 2 pints

Note: Kaffir lime leaves and fresh curry leaves can be found at specialty Middle Eastern markets or online. They keep well frozen, so stock up and store them in zipper-lock bags.

You will need 2 (1-pint) mason jars for this recipe.

24 – 30 large cooked, peeled, and deveined shrimp (tails on)
½ cup white vinegar
¼ cup water
1 tablespoon black peppercorns
2 teaspoons coriander seeds
8 garlic cloves
½ teaspoon salt
¼ cup fresh lime juice
2 tablespoons white tequila
4 serrano chiles, halved lengthwise
12 kaffir lime leaves
4 sprigs fresh curry leaves

- In small saucepan, combine vinegar, water, peppercorns, coriander, salt, and garlic. Bring to boil over medium-high heat and cook for 5 minutes. Remove from heat and cool to room temperature. Stir in lime juice and tequila.

- Pack the shrimp, serranos, kaffir lime leaves, and curry leaves into 2 (1-pint) mason jars. Pour in the vinegar mixture, adding water if needed to fully submerge the shrimp. Seal the jars and chill for at least 8 hours and up to overnight prior to serving.

Home Made Doughnuts

The dog ate our homework. And our set food.

Actually, we have a very good excuse for having left C&S to gather dust, mold, and hairballs: we were working on a BOOK! Our very first, and we are oh-so-thrilled and in that pinch-us-till-we-bruise-because-we-can’t-believe-it phase.

Due out this fall, our first collaboration in print will feature original recipes perfect for the chilly months, so get ready to cozy up with us because we will make it very much worth your while. Guaranteed, or your money back.

For the past few months we’ve been meeting and talking and researching (the research is still classified, but the nature of it will be vodka-clear come fall) and plotting and stressing and sprouting more grays etc. etc. etc. But, finally, in recent weeks, everything came together: I handed in a manuscript with recipes I’m sure will make you giddy, and we got to shooting.

Our shoots began in a Brooklyn brownstone that prop stylist and all-around fabulous girl Emily Rickard has outfitted with her incredible taste and unique style. You must visit her site and blog AppleKetchup for inspiration on how to live.  In the brownstone we shot several of our chapter openers: light, airy, and inviting, Emily’s hand helped us add a touch of welcome and celebration to our images.

Next, we packed, unpacked, packed again, and shot our tabletop images at Good Light Studio in Midtown. We’ve both shot at numerous studios around town, but this is one of our favorites: generous daylight, a too-comfortable kitchen (I was in the depths of despair when I got home to my Lilliputian-sized one), and incredible studio managers. An average of 14 shots a day—in photo speak, that is almost twice as many as are normally accomplished on a normal shoot day—made possible by having two sets going at the same time, as well as the invaluable help of digitech Geraldine Pierson and friend and chef Dean Sheremet—if you haven’t already, do check out his site for recipes and food tips that you shouldn’t be carrying on without.

We realize that this post has turned into an acknowledgments page of sorts, but we really couldn’t have made the shoots and book happen without our crew. Speaking of which, Penelope Bouklas, prop styling goddess, brought us countless surfaces, linens, glasses, plates, and an array of dreamy utensils (one of which I pocketed) that made our lovely book that much lovelier.

Phew. OK, here are some outtakes from the shoot. I’m a ham, so I’m the nerd with the glasses behind the quince branches willing to be photographed. The shot with the grape tomatoes is a peek at one of our juicy double-page spreads, and the doughnuts… Well, you’ve suffered through our Oscar-winner-ish thank you’s so you get a sneak peek recipe. You’ll love it and it will make you the most popular gal or dude at the party. Srsly.

Behind the Scenes

Bloody Mary

CHEATER DOUGHNUTS

Toss the doughnuts in simple cinnamon sugar, or add some extra zing with citrus or vanilla bean sugar, dip them in warm maple syrup (give your guests a small bowl), make them savory with sugar, pinch of salt, pinch of cayenne pepper, fried sage crumbled

1 tin store-bough biscuits
8 cups vegetable oil

Heat oil in a Dutch oven or large skillet with high sides over medium-high heat until temperature registers 350°F. (Oil should be 1- to 1 1/2 inches deep). Add half of the doughnuts and half of the doughnut holes and fry until the bottoms turn golden brown, 1 to 1 1/2 minutes small doughnuts and 2 to 2 1/2 minutes for large doughnuts. Using chopsticks or the handles of 2 wooden cooking spoons, turn the doughnuts and holes and fry for until golden brown, 1 to 2 minutes longer.

Transfer doughnuts to a paper towel-lined plate and allow to cool slightly, 1 to 2 minutes before dipping in glaze or coating in sugar. Serve warm.

SPICY SAGE SUGAR
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
3/4 cup sage leaves
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon Aleppo pepper or red pepper flakes

Melt butter over medium heat in small skillet. Add sage leaves and cook, stirring occasionally, until crisp, 2 to 3 minutes. Transfer to paper towel-lined plate.

Crumble sage with fingertips and combine with sugar, salt, and Aleppo pepper in large plate. Toss warm doughnuts in sugar and serve immediately.

PLAIN JANE GLAZE
2 cups confectioners’ sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
8 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1/4 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Place confectioners’ sugar and salt in medium bowl. Whisk in melted butter, milk, and vanilla extract and whisk until smooth. Dip doughnuts and serve immediately.

CHOCOLATE GLAZE
1 cup confectioners’ sugar
1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
¾ cup milk

Place confectioners’ sugar, cocoa powder, and salt in medium bowl. Whisk in milk and whisk until smooth. Dip doughnuts and serve immediately.

BROWN BUTTER GLAZE
8 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 8 pieces
2 cups confectioners’ sugar
1/4  teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup milk

Melt the butter over medium-high heat in a small stainless steel saucepan. Cook the butter until browned, 5 to 8 minutes, swirling the pan occasionally. The butter will begin to foam; the subsiding foam is an indicator that the butter is almost done.   Once the solids are caramel brown the remove the pan from the heat and immediately pour it into a medium bowl, scraping in all the solids. Add the confectioners’ sugar, salt, vanilla extract and whisk until smooth. Dip doughnuts and serve immediately.

Makes 8 to 10 doughnuts, depending on biscuit tin contents

Time to make the doughnuts: I use Pillsbury® biscuits for this recipe. One roll of “Buttermilk” biscuits yields ten small (about 2 1/2-inch inches in diameter) doughnuts and ten tiny doughnut holes. You’ll need a 1/2-inch round cutter to punch out the holes. One roll of “Grands Homestyle Buttermilk” biscuits yields 8 large (about 3 1/2 inches in diameter) doughnuts and eight doughnut holes. You’ll need a 1-inch round cutter to punch out the holes.

Jolly Holidays

We are surely not the only ones baffled at how the holidays crept up on us, but really, here so soon? Again, no tree or twinkle lights, and many a holiday gift has turned into an IOU. At least in my case…Tara pulled it together in a much more civilized fashion.

What I have to offer: quick and festive recipes that will give you at least an air of hostess/host with the mostes’/most.

More importantly, Cookin’ and Shootin’ wishes you the warmest and jolliest of holidays, full of friends and family, gifts and goodwill.

Champagne Pomegranate Cocktail

PICKLED APPLE AND POMEGRANATE GRANITA

Champagne and prosecco bring sparkle to holiday festivities, but we also like to add color and punch to the bubbles. This granita is tart, sweet, and reddest red—it doesn’t get any more jolly than this.

2 Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored, and cut into 1-inch chunks
1 cup red wine vinegar
2 teaspoons black peppercorns
2 teaspoons whole allspice
2 teaspoons cloves
4 cinnamon sticks
2 tablespoons finely grated zest plus ¼ cup juice from 2 blood or regular oranges
1/3 cup granulated sugar
3 cups pomegranate juice

Chilled champagne or prosecco, for serving

Combine apples, vinegar, peppercorns, allspice, cloves, and cinnamon in medium saucepan. Rub orange zest into sugar until sugar is damp and no zest strands remain. Stir sugar into apple mixture and bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring until sugar is completely dissolved. Reduce head to medium-low and simmer about 15 minutes or until apples are completely soft.

Strain mixture into a 13- by 9-inch metal baking pan, pressing apple chunks through with a spoon. Discard solids. Whisk pomegranate juice into mixture and place pan in freezer. Freeze granita for at least 1 ½ hours, scraping every 30 minutes until a frozen, slushy consistency is reached.

Spoon granita into champagne glasses and pour in champagne. Toast!

Appetizers

SPICED CHEESE STRAWS

16 short straws

Aleppo pepper, za’atar spice, and sumac are available in the spice aisle of specialty markets or online. If you can’t find them, substitute with your favorite blend of spices and herbs such as oregano and rosemary.

1 1/2 cups (3 ounces) finely grated Parmesan cheese
1 teaspoon kosher salt
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon fresh marjoram, chopped
2 teaspoons za’atar spice
1 teaspoon sumac
½ teaspoon Aleppo pepper or red pepper flakes
All-purpose flour for dusting work surface
2 frozen puff pastry sheets, thawed according to package directions
1 large egg
1 tablespoon heavy cream

Adjust 2 oven racks to upper middle and lower middle positions and preheat to 375°F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.

Combine cheese, salt, pepper, marjoram, za’atar, sumac, and Aleppo pepper in medium bowl. Lightly dust a clean, dry work surface with flour. Roll out 1 puff pastry sheet to about 12- by 10-inches. Whisk egg and cream together in small bowl and brush over pastry. Sprinkle half of cheese mixture evenly over pastry and press in gently.

Cut the sheet in half lengthwise, then crosswise into eights to yield 16 rectangles. Carefully twist each rectangle to form a curl and arrange on prepared baking sheets about 1 inch apart. Repeat entire procedure with second puff pastry sheet.

Bake for 10 to 12 minutes or until puffed and golden. Using a spatula, turn the cheese straws over and bake for an additional 2 to 3 minutes. Transfer trays to cooling racks and cool about 5 minutes before serving.

HOLIDAY CHEESE BALLS

Makes about 6 2-inch cheese balls.

Cheese balls are a little bit funny and retro, but after the slightly raised eyebrows have returned to the horizontal position, everyone admits to loving them. The great thing about cheese ball recipes is that they’re simple to make and lend themselves to any number of additions. Here are some festively flavored and decorated ones, but do feel free to take the recipe and add your own personal touches to them—anything from chopped nuts and herbs to fancy preserves and caviar are fair game.

Serve the cheese balls with crackers, good bread, or crudités.

An ice cream scoop with spring release is a perfect tool for easy cheese ball shaping.

Master Mix
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 tablespoon finely grated shallots
2 teaspoons dry mustard
3 (8-ounce) packages cream cheese, at room temperature
4 ounces sharp white cheddar cheese, grated or 4 ounces crumbled blue cheese
2 teaspoons finely grated zest plus 2 tablespoons juice from about 2 lemons
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Additions and Coatings
Finely chopped pitted green olives
Fresh marjoram, finely chopped
Fresh flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped
Fresh dill, finely chopped
Green peppercorns
Pink peppercorns
Aleppo pepper

Melt butter in small saucepan over medium heat. Stir in shallots and dry mustard and  cook for 1 minute. Transfer mixture to large bowl. Add cream cheese, cheddar, lemon zest, and lemon juice. Stir together until smooth and season with salt and pepper.

To flavor cheese mixture, stir in green olives and/or herbs to taste. Shape into approximately 2-inch balls and roll in peppercorns or Aleppo pepper. Refrigerate cheese balls until ready to serve.

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