december 5, 2019
One of the easiest appetizers to serve for impromptu gatherings, pre-dinner nibbles and large crowds is a good spread for crackers and crisp vegetables. This is why hummus is so very popular. If it’s not homemade, there will be various flavors to consider at your local market. This cheese and walnut spread is like hummus for those who don’t fancy hummus. The consistency is similar and the versatility is similar in that you can use this make-ahead spread with crispy things, schmear it on on sandwiches and wraps and use it to add creamy cheesiness to mashed potatoes and polenta.
Now, for those last suggestions, can you really add hummus and other spreads to creamy foods like potatoes, polenta and grits? Sure, why not? This holiday season, I plan to keep a full bowl of this delicious cheese spread in the fridge for doctoring up leftovers as well as for serving last minute guests.
Here are a few pointers to make this a memorable appetizer :
- use brick cheddar and not preshredded, as the latter has anti-clumping agents to prevent creaminess
- have the cheese at room temperature for best blending
- I used raw walnuts—you can use toasted, but the skins get bitter even with mild toasting
- Spanish smoked paprika comes in mild and hot varieties; use what you prefer, but decrease the amount for hot as a little goes a long way
- make the spread up to one week ahead and let it sit at room temperature 30-40 minutes for easy spreading
- the food processor makes this a super easy recipe—a few whirls and you are done
- garnish with olive oil drizzle, coarse black pepper, pomegranate arils or chopped herbs for a festive look
Happy entertaining is easy with a pantry full of crisp crackers and flatbreads and a fridge full of precut crispy veggies and fruits, and this easy cheesy spread.
Cheddar Walnut Spread
recipe by Michele Humlan, The Good Eats Company
makes about 1 ½ cups
8 ounce brick sharp cheddar cheese at room temperature*
1 cup raw walnuts
one medium garlic clove, zested with microplane grater
1/8 teaspoon fine sea salt
¼ teaspoon each Spanish smoked paprika and ground cumin
juice of one large lemon
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
optional garnishes : drizzled olive oil, coarsely ground black pepper, pomegranate arils, chopped fresh herbs like parsley or basil
* preshredded cheddar cheese has anti-caking agents which prevent blending, so use brick cheddar
- Add cheese, walnuts and all seasonings to bowl of large food processor and use pulse mode to make a chunky paste.
- With motor running, add lemon juice and olive oil, stopping to scrape sides of bowl with spatula as needed, until smooth spread forms.
- Chill at least several hours to develop flavor.
- Spread may be made up to one week ahead; let sit at room temperature 30-40 minutes to soften for spreadability.
- Serve with crackers or vegetables and sliced fruits; may also be used like hummus, in creamy starchy dishes like mashed potatoes and polenta, or spread onto breads and wraps for sandwiches.