A few weeks ago I was cleaning out the pantry and found an packet of cheese ball spices I’d gotten as a gift years ago. Being the ever daring, incorrigibly curious lady that I am, I grabbed the cream cheese out of the fridge and set about making a cheeseball. I followed the directions to add the spices and 1/4 cup of cheddar cheese and it was certainly tasty, but I determined it wouldn’t be a true cheese ball without the ubiquitous nut coating you always see in traditional cheese balls. I crushed walnuts, mixed them with dried cranberries, rolled my cheese ball in the mix, and brought it to a party I was going to that evening.
Now, that cheese ball was good, but I knew that I could do better. The spices were just really salty and had that tangy taste of too much processing and preserving. Naturally, when we had our friends over to dinner last week, I took a crack at cheese ball number two- a butternut squash and sage cheese ball, invented by yours truly. It was pretty delicious, and now I find myself cheese ball obsessed. Think of the possibilities! Red wine and goat cheese balls! Cheese balls made with curry, cashews and cranberries! Pimento cheese balls! I’ve always sort of wanted a signature food I always make and bring to parties and I think I may have found it in the cheese ball. So simple. So elegant. So nicely symmetrical. Cheese ball, I’ve been looking for you all my life and you were right in front of me. I’m sorry I didn’t see you until now.
Butternut Squash and Sage Cheese Ball
1/2 large butternut squash
1 t butter
1 clove garlic
2 T crushed walnuts
8 oz cream cheese
1/4 t smoked paprika
1/2 t sage
1/8 t white pepper
Peel squash and cut in half. Core insides and save seeds. Cut squash into chunks and boil in salted walter until tender, about 10 minutes or roast in a 375 degree oven for abot half an hour. Mince garlic clove, heat butter in a small pan, add garlic and cook on medium for two minutes. Increase heat, add squash seeds and cook until crispy. Mix walnuts with squash seeds and set aside.
Place cream cheese in a bowl and butternut squash, paprika, sage and white pepper. If the squash hasn’t cooled, it will soften the cream cheese and you’ll have it the mixture sit in the fridge overnight to harden. I recommend this since it makes the mixing easier and gives the falvors a chance to settle into themselves before eating.
Roll the hardened mixture into a ball and roll into the walnut and seed mixture. And now, my friends, you have yourselves a cheese ball.