I’ll start with the cheese ball, as that is usually the best place to begin. I have been telling my mom about the awesomeness of this cheeseball for about a year now, when I first made it last year before the holidays. This outing in Montana was the perfect opportunity to share in its greatness.
My aunt, who doesn’t even like tomatoes, ate as much as everyone else.
Also, it looked much prettier than the title picture above. That’s all that was left from the trip, the picture taken after the poor cheeseball had been in a cooler for 11.25 hours on the drive home. We put him to good use back in Portland.
Unfortunately, I did not take pictures of the cheeseball-making. Therefore, I will intersperse this post with pictures from the trip.
The Best Cheeseball Ever
Based on Paula Deen’s Pesto Cheese Blossom recipe
1 (8-ounce) package sliced provolone cheese
2 (8-ounce) packages cream cheese, at room temperature
1/4 cup toasted walnuts (you could also use pistachios, pecans — really whatever nuts you like)
3 cloves garlic
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese
1 cup fresh basil leaves
1/2 cup pine nuts
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 3 oz pkg dried, sundried tomatoes
1 tsp balsamic vinegar
Driving to Montana on I-90
Line a medium glass bowl (the smallest “mixing bowl” if you have a set) with plastic wrap, leaving enough overhang to cover the top. Now, you want to line your bowl with provolone. When I did this, I did not use the whole package of provolone. I used, perhaps, 7 slices total. One on the bottom, five around the sides, then, I folded the provolone lining the side down to cover the cream cheese, then finished with one more slice in the middle.
Interesting mosaic tulip fence across the street from the house we were renting.
But, start with just lining it with the 5-6 slices, in the bottom and around the sides.
For the cream cheese layer, process the cream cheese, nuts, Parmesan and 2 of the garlic cloves in a food processor until blended; scrape the mixture into a bowl and set aside.
For the pesto layer, process the basil, pine nuts, salt and pepper, and the remaining garlic clove in the food processor until blended. With the machine running, add the oil in a fine stream. Scrape this mixture into a second bowl and set aside.
jwa and I.
For the tomato layer, heat up a few cups of water until it is boiling. Add the tomatoes to a heat-proof bowl and cover with the water. Let set about 10 minutes and then drain. Squish the tomatoes with your hands a little to get out a bit more of the liquid. Then, add those to the food processor with the balsamic until they are paste-like.
Yeah, the one big pain about the recipe is that you need to use a food processor three times and clean it twice between uses. It’s worth it though!
My cosmo at 2nd Street Bistro — in the background, my aunt reaches for a bistro fry.
If you don’t have a food processor, you can:
* buy pesto at the store and just drain it a little before using to remove a little of the oil
* Crush the nuts and just whisk them and the minced garlic into room temperature cream cheese
* Chop the rehydrated sundried tomatoes very fine and then mix with the vinegar
When I made this in Montana, I just did a brief cream cheese layer, then the pesto, then the tomatoes, then the rest of the cream cheese. You can also layer it more like this — spread about 1/4 of your cream cheese mixture over the cheese slices lining the bowl. Next, layer the pesto mixture, half of the remaining cream cheese mixture, the sun-dried tomato mixture, and then remaining cream cheese mixture in the bowl. Fold down any overhanging provolone from the sides and cover with provolone as needed (after folding down, I needed one slice).
Walking around downtown Livingston.
Bring the edges of the plastic wrap together over the top. Refrigerate until firm (overnight works well, but 2-4 hours will work if it has to). Remove the plastic wrap and invert the mold onto a serving platter. Serve with crackers, bread or chips. A little of the pesto oil might leak out — no big deal. To serve, I would cut a slice out (like a pie piece) so that others won’t be afraid to dig into it and also so everyone can see how pretty it is inside.
Paula Deen says that this will keep in the refrigerator for up to 3 months. I have not been able to test this theory out.
What to do with leftover cheeseball?
Well, the night after we got back, I mixed some of our leftovers into some polenta for a sundried tomato/pesto polenta. It was quite good.