Cheese balls, coated with dried fruits and walnuts, nicely wrapped in zucchini. Wouldn’t those bites be tempting as a tapas to grab with a drink before dinner?
In May I won a cheese recipe contest organized for the “Cheese Up Your Life” European program. Like the other food bloggers, I had to prepare 1 tapas and 1 dessert using two kinds of cheese, a traditional French cheese, and a modern cheese.
I had no choice of cheese and each blogger had different ones. Mine were a pretty heart shape soft cheese called Neufchâtel (very creamy cheese with a strong taste) and a cream cheese called Saint Môret (a bit like Philadelphia). I kept the Saint Môret for the sweet cheese proposal and used the Neufchâtel for the appetizer recipe. I also had many ingredients on hands: fresh vegetables, herbs and spices, grocery … and 1h30 to make both recipes.
Here is the first one of the two recipes I prepared.
Choose a soft cheese (but not too creamy if you want the roll to hold on the peak !) to the still pronounced taste, such as a Brillat Savarin, a Munster, a Brie, Neufchâtel… See here a great article with information on french soft cheeses. A pressed cheese wouldn’t work as the beggar of dried fruits and nuts won’t stick to the cheese.
The cheese is coated in what I call a beggar as in France we serve beggar chocolates at Christmas (see the recipe here) called mendiants which is chocolate with dried fruits and nuts. I give you proposals of dried fruits and chose walnuts but you may want to change according to what you have at home or your taste. The important thing is to have crunchy ingredients (walnuts, almonds, or hazelnuts) and other sweet ingredients thus dried fruits such as cranberries, fig, apricot, sultanas…)
Zucchini and Cheese Rolls with Dried Fruits and Nuts
- Ideally a mandoline
- 1 soft cheese
- 2 zucchinis preferably of good diameter and straight
- 1 ½ dried fig or dried apricot
- About 50 dried cranberries or raisins
- 10 sundried tomatoes
- A dozen walnuts
- 1 to 2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar cream
- Olive oil 3 tablespoons for zucchinis and 3 to 4 teaspoons for the beggar of dried fruits
- 3 pinches turmeric
- Start by preheating the oven to 160 °C.
- Rinse zucchini and cut off both ends. Using a mandolin (or possibly a peeler), cut off strips lengthwise (about 2 mm thick). Prepare 12 beautiful strips (or a little more if you want to be able to choose the nicest ones).
- Place zucchini strips on a baking tray covered with parchment paper. Pour oil into a bowl with turmeric and combine. Using a brush (or your fingers!) coat both sides of zucchinis and cook for about ten minutes, flipping zucchinis halfway.
- When out of the oven, place strips on paper towels to absorb any excess of oil.
- Then prepare the beggar. Cut into very fine cubes the same volume of sundried tomatoes, fig and cranberries. Combine. Crush walnuts and combine with the previous preparation. You want to have almost the same volume of dry fruits + sundried tomatoes and nuts, or at least 2/3 of the volume.
- Add gradually the balsamic vinegar and the olive oil. Mix. The idea is to perfume and moisten a little bit the ingredients without getting a liquid preparation. Adjust the quantities indicated if necessary.
- Remove the crust of the cheese, put the inner paste in a bowl and homogenize it with a fork by softening it a little. Form 12 balls about 1.5 cm in diameter.
- Roll these balls into the beggar to be completely covered. If the consistency of the cheese is a little too soft, place it in the refrigerator for a few minutes.
- Finally wrap in a slice of zucchini. Eventually assemble with a peak, it’s easier to grab.
- Serve at room temperature.
Bon appétit !