Lunchbreak: Party magnet cheeseball and more, prepared by chef Vivian Howard

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Vivian Howard

To purchase a copy of the book:

Deep Run Roots: Stories and Recipes from My Corner of the South

November 21 (Tonight)
7:00 p.m.
Anderson's Bookshop
123 W. Jefferson Avenue


Party Magnet Cheeseball

Note: This recipe calls for dates. Please do not use pre-chopped dates from a bag. They are covered in sugar and taste like sweet cardboard. Use whole, dried dates and remove the pits.
1/4 cup high-quality blue cheese (I like Maytag)
1/3 cup (5 1/2 Tablespoons) butter
1/4 cup fresh goat cheese
1/4 cup plus 2 Tablespoons cream cheese
1/4 cup chopped dates
2 Tablespoons finely chopped scallions (both white and green parts work here)
1/2 teaspoon hot sauce
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup Salt-and-Butter-Roasted Pecans, roughly chopped
2 Tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley

Take the blue cheese, butter, goat cheese, and cream cheese out of the refrigerator to soften 30 minutes before making your cheese-ball mixture. In the bowl of a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine all the ingredients except for the pecans and parsley. Paddle it up till homogeneous. It will be loose and sticky and you’ll wonder how you’re ever going to form that mess into a ball. The answer is, you transfer the bowl to the refrigerator for 15 minutes or so. During that time the cheese mix will firm up enough for you to pat it into a sphere. Once it’s stiff enough to hold up, form the ball and roll that ball in the pecans, followed by parsley.

Salt-and-Butter Roasted Pecans

2 cups pecan halves or pieces
2 Tablespoons melted butter
3/4 tsp salt, divided

Preheat your oven to 350F. Toss the pecans thoroughly with the melted butter and 1/2 teaspoon of the salt. Spread them out in a single layer on a baking sheet and slide that sheet onto the middle rack of your oven. Roast the pecans for 11 minutes if using pecan halves and 10 minutes if you're using pieces. Bring the slightly darkened and toasty-smelling pecans out of the oven and hit them with the remaining salt. Let them cool 5 minutes before you eat them. These will keep for two weeks in an airtight container at room temperature.

Apple Chips
Makes 3 quarts
Note: Although I almost never recommend peeling apples, peel these. Slow-cooking them with sugar makes the skin tough.

5 pounds crisp eating apples, such as Fuji or Honeycrisp
5 pounds granulated sugar
5 cloves
4 whole star anise
2 lemons sliced thin, seeds removed
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup apple cider
(if needed)

Peel the apples and cut the flesh from the core in 4 pieces. Using a mandoline, cut the apple quarters into slices that are roughly 1/8 of an inch thick. Toss the slices with the sugar, cloves, star anise and lemon slices making sure to coat all the apples. Cover with plastic wrap and leave out at room temperature overnight. The next day, transfer the contents of the bowl to a 6- to 8-quart Dutch oven and add the salt. Cook the preserves gently over medium low heat, covered, until the slices become translucent and are swimming in a golden syrup. Stir periodically and skim any scum that rises to the surface as the preserves cook. This should take about an hour. If after 45 minutes the apples are not beginning to turn clear and the syrup is starting to darken, add 1 cup apple cider and keep cooking. Store the preserves in a sealed container in the refrigerator for up to 3 months or funnel them into jars and process in a hot-water bath for 10 minutes.

I mix these apples chips, for instance, with a touch of Dijon mustard and some sherry vinegar and slather them on pork chops, baked hams, and roast chicken. Add a little more acidity to that mix, like lemon juice, some salt, and olive oil, and you’ve got a salad dressing packed with fruity flavor you can’t get from a fresh apple.

Brussels Sprouts, Apples, and Pomegranate with Blue Cheese Honey Vinaigrette

12 to 16 large Brussels Sprouts
3 medium Fuji or other crisp, sweet eating apples
Juice of 1 lemon
4 radishes, cut into eighths
3 Tablespoons thinly sliced scallions
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 cup Blue Cheese Honey Vinaigrette
2 Tablespoons torn mint leaves
1/2 cup pomegranate seeds

Blue Cheese Honey Vinaigrette

1/2 cup high-quality blue cheese such as Maytag, broken into crumbles
3 Tablespoons of lemon juice
3 Tablespoons of cider vinegar
3 Tablespoons of honey
1 teaspoon of salt
10 turns of the pepper mill or 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 cup of grapeseed or sunflower oil

Make the vinaigrette: In a medium bowl, whisk together the cheese, lemon juice, vinegar, honey, salt, and pepper until the blue cheese is broken up and the liquid appears creamy. Then slowly whisk in the oil and set aside. Just before pouring the dressing over the salad, give it another whisk. This dressing will keep in a sealed container in the fridge for up to 5 days.

Assemble the salad: Slice the stem end off the Brussels sprouts and separate the sprouts into individual leaves. Set aside. Just before building the salad, dice the apples and toss them with the lemon juice. To the apples, add the radishes, Brussels sprouts, scallion, salt, and 3/4 cup of vinaigrette.

Let the salad sit for at least 10 minutes and up to 30 minutes before serving. Just before you do, top with the mint, pomegranate seeds, and another drizzle of dressing.

Excerpted from Deep Run Roots, Copyright © 2016 by Vivian Howard.
Used with permission of Little, Brown and Company, New York. All rights reserved.