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Originally published Thursday, December 26, 2013 at 6:03 AM

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Holiday Recipes: Say Cheese for the New Year

Make your New Year’s celebration all about cheese with these tasty appetizers.


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Make your New Year’s celebration all about cheese with these tasty appetizers. MEXICAN BLACK BEAN CHEESE BALL Makes 1 cheese ball

Also called “Everything That’s Great about a Burrito in Cheese Ball Form.” You could add cooked (and cooled) chorizo or taco-seasoned ground beef instead of or in addition to black beans, if you’d like.

2 cups shredded extra-sharp cheddar cheese

1 (15-oz.) can black beans, drained and rinsed

8 ounces cream cheese, softened

2 tablespoons minced red onion

¾cup chopped fresh cilantro

2 teaspoons ground cumin

¼ tsp. coarse salt

Pinch cayenne pepper (optional)

Crackers or pita chips, for serving

1. Using a stand mixer or a bowl and a spatula, mix together the cheddar, beans, cream cheese, onion, 2 tablespoons cilantro (reserve the rest for coating the cheese ball), cumin, salt and cayenne, if using, until combined. Form the mixture into a ball, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least two hours or overnight.

2. Before serving, coat the cheese ball in the remaining cilantro. Serve with crackers or pita chips.

— Adapted by the Austin American-Statesman from “Great Balls of Cheese” (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $16.99) by Michelle Buffardi.

LOX BAGEL BALL

Makes 1 cheese ball

A cheese ball made from the best bagel toppings makes for a much better presentation at brunch than a plain tub of cream cheese and piles of lox, onions and capers. Beyond brunch, serve this with bagel chips or pita chips.

16 oz. cream cheese, softened

4 oz. smoked salmon, chopped

2 tablespoons finely chopped red onion

2 tablespoons small capers, drained

1 bunch scallions, chopped, for coating

Bagels, bagel chips or pita chips, for serving

1. Using a stand mixer or a bowl and a spatula, mix together the cream cheese, salmon, onion and capers. Form the mixture into a ball, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least two hours or overnight.

2. Before serving, roll the cheese ball in the scallions to coat. Serve with bagels, bagel chips or pita chips.

— Adapted by the Austin American-Statesman from “Great Balls of Cheese” (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $16.99) by Michelle Buffardi.

CHEESE STRAWS

Makes about 2 dozen straws.

2 sheets (1 box) frozen puff pastry, defrosted overnight in the refrigerator

1 extra-large egg

½ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

1 cup finely grated Gruyere cheese

1 teaspoon minced fresh thyme leaves

1 teaspoon kosher salt

Freshly ground black pepper

1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

2. Roll out each sheet of puff pastry on a lightly floured board until it’s 10 by 12 inches. Beat the egg with 1 tablespoon of water and brush the surface of the pastry.

3. Sprinkle each sheet evenly with ¼ cup of the Parmesan, ½ cup of the Gruyere, ½ teaspoon of the thyme, ½ teaspoon of the salt, and some pepper. With the rolling pin, lightly press the flavorings into the puff pastry.

4. Cut each sheet crosswise with a floured knife or pizza wheel into 11 or 12 strips. Twist each strip and lay on baking sheets lined with parchment paper.

5. Bake for 10 to 15 minutes, until lightly browned and puffed. Turn each straw and bake for another two minutes. Don’t overbake or the cheese will burn. Cool and serve at room temperature.

— Adapted by the Akron Beacon Journal from “Barefoot Contessa in Paris,” Ina Garten.

PINE NUT SHORTBREAD WITH GOAT CHEESE SPREAD AND BALSAMIC GLAZE

Makes 26 cookies

For the figs

1 cup port wine

½ cup water

¾ cup sugar

2 cinnamon sticks (3-inch)

5 allspice berries

7 to 8 plump dried figs

For the cookies

¼ cup pine nuts, plus 3 tablespoons, whole and toasted, for garnish

8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature

¼ cup sugar

¼ teaspoon vanilla extract

1¼ cups flour, plus more for the work surface

Small pinch salt

For the spread

4 ounces soft goat cheese

1 tablespoon confectioners’ sugar

1 tablespoon regular or low-fat milk

¼ teaspoon vanilla extract

For the glaze

1 cup balsamic vinegar

3 tablespoons sugar

1. For the figs: Combine the port, water, sugar, cinnamon sticks and allspice in a small saucepan over medium heat. Once it starts to bubble at the edges, cook for five minutes, then reduce the heat to medium-low and cook for eight to 10 minutes to form a slightly reduced syrup. Remove from the heat.

2. Add the dried figs; cover and macerate for one to two hours. If your saucepan is so shallow that it doesn’t allow for the syrup to cover the figs, transfer the figs and syrup to a smaller, deep container.

3. For the cookies: Pulse the ¼ cup of pine nuts in a food processor until finely ground.

4. Combine the butter, sugar and vanilla extract in the bowl of a stand mixer or handheld electric mixer on medium speed to form a lightened, smooth and fluffy mixture. Stop to scrape down the sides of the bowl.

5. On low speed, gradually add the flour and salt; beat until thoroughly incorporated. Add the ground pine nuts; beat to form a smooth dough. Flatten the cookie dough into a disk; wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.

6. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Line two baking sheets with silicone liners or parchment paper.

7. Spread the 3 tablespoons of whole pine nuts on one of the baking sheets; toast in the oven for eight to 12 minutes, shaking them once or twice to promote even browning. Cool to room temperature.

8. Unwrap the cookie dough and cut it in half. Shape the dough into logs that are about 1½ inches in diameter, freeze the logs until they becomes chilled and hard, and cut the cookie logs into thin slices. Place the slices on the prepared baking sheets.

9. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Bake one sheet at a time for eight to 10 minutes. The cookies will remain pale but will feel dry to the touch. Transfer the cookies to a wire rack to cool.

10. Meanwhile, make the spread: Combine the goat cheese, confectioners’ sugar, milk and vanilla extract in the bowl of a stand mixer or handheld electric mixer. Beat on medium-high speed to achieve a smooth, spreadable consistency. Transfer to a bowl and cover with plastic wrap.

11. For the glaze: Heat the balsamic vinegar in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Once it starts to boil, reduce the heat to low. Stir in the sugar; once it has dissolved, cook, stirring occasionally, for 45 to 50 minutes, until the liquid is syrupy and has reduced by about three-quarters. Cool to room temperature.

12. When ready to assemble, remove the figs from the port syrup solution and drain them, reserving the syrup if desired. For easy slicing, freeze the drained figs for about 10 minutes before cutting them into thin slices.

13. Use a round-edged knife to distribute goat cheese spread on top of each cookie. Arrange a few thin slices of fig on each one, then drizzle the glaze over them. Garnish with a few toasted pine nuts. You’ll have glaze left over, and you might have a little extra goat cheese spread as well.

— Adapted by The Washington Post from Vanessa E. Ochotorena, a pastry cook at Ripple in D.C., and the founder of www.sweet-lab.com.



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