Appetite for Life: Passion for Appetizers

Appetite for Life: Passion for Appetizers
Thursday, July 22, 2010 | Special to the Ledger

Anyone who has known me for any period of time knows I love to cook. They also quickly pick up on the fact that my favorite things to make are appetizers. It’s something about delicious, comforting food wrapped up into small bite-size portions. Appetizers set the mood for a meal or gathering. They can be a meal all by themselves. They bring people together and encourage socializing over a single serving dish.
Almost all cultures have their own versions and traditions associated with appetizers. Italy has antipasti; China has dim sum; and Spain has tapas. I think the fact that so many cultures have some form of appetizers as part of their food traditions attests to how versatile and delightful these dishes are.
Different regions of the U.S. are known for their own traditional appetizer dishes as well. A Southern favorite is the cheese ball. With a versatile base of cream cheese, the flavors that can be added to make the dish appropriate for any occasion or season are endless. It’s become a tradition in our family for me to make my pumpkin cheese ball each Thanksgiving. It consists of the cream cheese, shredded cheddar, pecans, and solid pack pumpkin. A seasonal ingredient like pumpkin easily makes a cheese ball a holiday dish.
I recently found this summer-themed cheese ball in a cookbook my mother-in-law gave to me a few years ago.
I was a bit skeptical of the pineapple it called for, but it was an instant hit and a new addition to my repertoire of cheese balls I serve throughout the year. I hope it will become a favorite in your home or will at least inspire you to try something different that better suites your own tastes and favorite flavors.
Islander Cheese Ball

From “Virginia Hospitality” by the Junior League of Hampton Roads

16 ounces cream cheese, softened
8 ounces crushed pineapple, drained
2 tablespoons green onions, including tops, chopped
1/4-1/2 cup green pepper, chopped
2 teaspoons seasoned salt
2 cups pecans, chopped

Mix cheese and pineapple with mixer. Stir in onion, green pepper, salt and 1/2 cup pecans. Roll into one large ball, 2 logs, or fill a scooped-out fresh pineapple half.
Roll or top with remaining pecans. Serve with bacon-flavored crackers.

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