the entertainer

So I totally meant to post this before New Years rolled around. You know, in case you wanted to maybe get an idea for an easy appetizer to serve at your holiday party. And now you're probably into the whole "healthy recipe" thing since New Years Resolutions are in full effect. But I'm going to share this easy appetizer idea anyway. I mean, technically it's made of fruit, fruit is healthy. Especially when paired with cheese and nuts. Right?! Either way, make sure you make these for your next party!

Growing up, my mom was always hosting some sort of party or another. Nothing crazy or over the top but she always put thought, time, and a little something extra into it. I both loved and hated when she had people over because 1. it meant I had to help clean the house and 2. I got to play in the kitchen for a few hours as her Sous Chef. 

I loved watching my mom work in the kitchen. It's like she was a choreographed ballerina whipping up a from-scratch batch of tea cookies, while spinach and pine nut stuffed puff pastries were browning in her oven, and Grand Marnier injected chocolate dipped strawberries were chilling in the refrigerator. She made it look easy and more importantly, she had fun with it. Everything was always done from scratch and with attention to detail. And I wonder where my anal-retentiveness comes from! 

This recipe is one of her most popular appetizers, and an easy one at that! Roquefort and Walnut Grapes. They're not the bell of the ball, but they're certainly a tasty one. Blue cheese is mixed with cream cheese to tone it down and then red grapes are brought into the mix. Rolled in nuts, it's the perfect app to go with your wine! Juicy and nutty with the pungent kick of some smelly blue cheese*... what could be better?!

* I will say I'm not the biggest blue cheese fan (typically it's just too strong for me) BUT these grapes are the exception. The cheese is subtle enough and just adds a little something extra to the sweet, juicy burst of the red grapes. 

roquefort + walnut grapes

1 lb seedless red grapes, rinsed and dried
8 oz cream cheese, room temperature
.14 lb roquefort blue cheese, room temperature
2 T. milk
fresh cracked pepper to taste
6 c. walnuts

In a bowl, combine cheeses and milk, whip with an electric mixer until smooth and creamy. Drop in the grapes and give them a good stir. In a food processor, finely chop walnuts until they're a coarse powder. Pour on a plate or shallow bowl. Next drop a few grapes, one at a time into the nuts and toss to coat and set on a plate. Drop more and repeat until there are no grapes left.

It's that easy! I like to assemble them on a plate to resemble a bunch of grapes but you could put them on toothpicks and place into an apple or a harder piece of cheese on a cracker plate. Get creative!

improv style:
you can use different types of blue cheese as long as they're creamy enough to mix well with the cream cheese. if you're a big fan of the stinky blues, use more of it to get a higher concentration of flavor. similarly if you're not a big fan you could use less or substitute the cheese all together. something like a goat cheese or mascarpone - as long as it is creamy enough to blend and adhere to the grapes. if you don't use blue cheese, consider adding in some herbs (fresh or dried) to add a little more flavor. I would suggest thyme or rosemary and even add a bit of lemon zest, too. you could also substitute the red grapes for olives if you're not a fan of grapes. it would completely change the idea behind the dish but could be a really fun alternative.

you could try substituting the milk for red wine or port. if you're pairing the grapes with wine it would be best to leave it out but if you're not... that would be a really fun way to switch it up.  also, you can use any kind of nut you like. i think walnut and pecans work best with this recipe but you can use pistachios, cashews, hazelnuts (ooh, that could be reallllllll good), or even almonds . i actually ended up doing all sorts of nuts since i didn't have enough walnuts to do the whole batch.

if you don't have a food processor you could chop, chop, chop as fine as you can and then take the back of a heavy pan and smash the chopped pieces to get them even finer. it's a bit more work, but it's worth the effort. you could also try doing it in a blender but food processor is #1 if you have it. a great idea if you have leftovers is to add these to your salad with a simple balsamic vinaigrette! talk about a fancy salad!

Not the best pic but it gives you an idea of what's inside... 


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