Strawberry spread creates intense starter
AP Food writer
(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
1 quart fresh strawberries, stems removed
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons honey
1⁄4 teaspoon ground black pepper
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 email@example.com.