Strawberry spread creates intense starter | NevadaAppeal.com

Strawberry spread creates intense starter

J.M. Hirsch
AP Food writer
**ADVANCE FOR FRIDAY JUNE 12** **FOR USE WITH AP LIFESTYLES** This photo taken May 10, 2009 shows Pepper-Strawberry Cream Cheese. Pepper-Strawberry Cream Cheese, is a starter worthy of any gathering you are having this summer, has fresh strawberries whipped into the spread just before serving. (AP Photo/Larry Crowe)
AP | FR41490 AP

(AP) – This version of pepper jelly cream cheese takes parties to a fresh and flavorful new level by topping cream cheese with warm fresh strawberries, balsamic vinegar and ground black pepper. Finely diced jarred jalapeno peppers would be a spicy addition.

PEPPER-STRAWBERRY CREAM CHEESE

Start to finish: 30 minutes

Servings: 6

1 quart fresh strawberries, stems removed

2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

2 tablespoons honey

1⁄4 teaspoon ground black pepper

Pinch salt

12-inch baguette, cut into 1⁄2-inch slices

Olive oil cooking spray

12-ounce package whipped cream cheese, warmed to room temperature

Heat the oven to 450 F.

Slice about two-thirds of the strawberries in half. Set aside the remaining berries.

In a small saucepan over medium, combine the halved berries, balsamic vinegar, honey, black pepper and salt. Cover, bring to a simmer and cook until the strawberries have mostly broken down and thickened, about 10 minutes. Set aside to cool.

Meanwhile, arrange the baguette slices on a rimmed baking sheet, then spritz them with olive oil cooking spray. Bake until lightly toasted, about 8 to 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and cover with foil to keep warm.

Finely chop the remaining strawberries. In a medium bowl, combine the berries and the cream cheese. Use a wooden spoon or an electric mixer on low to gently mix the berries into the cream cheese.

Mound the cream cheese mixture on a serving platter, using a spoon to create a slight hollow at the center. Fill the hollow with the cooled sauce, letting some drizzle over the edges. Surround the cheese with the toasted baguette slices.

Nutrition information per serving (values are rounded to the nearest whole number): 374 calories; 184 calories from fat; 20 g fat (12 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 62 mg cholesterol; 39 g carbohydrate; 9 g protein; 3 g fiber; 490 mg sodium.

• J.M. Hirsch can be e-mailed at jhirsch@ap.org.