Weekend Eats: Fresh Herbs are lovely in a cheese spread

I know it must be summer when the perennial herbs scattered through my flower garden are ready for snipping. I’ve been getting ready for my “Cooking with Herbs” demonstration at Bemidji’s Natural Choice Farmers Market on Saturday, creating cheese spreads, Greek spinach and bison sliders with fresh sprigs of oregano, thyme, mint and slender spears of chives — all from my own garden.

Last night I served this Herbed Cheese Spread to a small group of friends who were over for wine and small bites. It’s so quick and easy to put together and only gets better with age. I like to mix it up the day before I plan to serve it, then sprinkle the top with chopped roasted and salted almonds or toasted pecans right at the last minute, so they stay nice and crunchy.

When I’m feeling like taking more time to prepare something a little more elegant, I form the cheese mixture into small, bite-sized balls and coat them with the nuts.

This cheese spread allows for your own creativity. I always start with a base of cream cheese and goat cheese. Sometimes I throw in some blue cheese. Finely shredded Parmesan is good, too. Then, just use whatever herbs you have available. Go lightly with the thyme and rosemary, though. They can be a bit overpowering.

Give this a try next time you’re having friends over. And, by the way, a glass of chilled Funf German Riesling was a very refreshing (and inexpensive) companion to the cheese spread.

I’d love to see you at the farmers market on Saturday morning. (June 4th) I’ll be cooking from 11:00 until noon at Bemidji’s Natural Choice Farmers Market in the Union Square Parking Lot, using fresh herbs, meat, eggs, bread and fresh greens all from the farmers at the market.

May there be some Fresh Herbs and Cheese Spread with wine and friends in your weekend.

And, if you’d like to watch me prepare this spread on my 3-minute Lakeland Cooks segment, just click here.

I also served Marinated Roasted Peppers on Crostini last night — another one of my make-ahead summer favorites.

Fresh Herbs and Cheese Spread

  • 1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese
  • 1 (4-ounce) log goat cheese
  • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne
  • 1 chubby clove garlic, peeled, smashed
  • 1 teaspoon coarse sea salt
  • Fresh herbs of your choice, about 2 tablespoons, or to taste
  • 1 teaspoon grated orange zest
  • sprinkle of Hungarian paprika
  • Roasted and salted almonds, chopped, or toasted pecans

In a medium bowl, use electric mixer to beat cream cheese, goat cheese and cayenne until smooth.

On a cutting board, mince garlic with salt. Add fresh herbs and orange zest and continue to mince until very fine. Add a pinch of paprika to the mix.

Scrape herb mixture into the cheese mixture. Stir well to blend.

Spread mixture onto platter. Cover and refrigerate. At serving time, sprinkle top with nuts. Surround with almond crackers. Serve at room temperature.