We are not sure about you, but this time of the year is exhausting. Between working, baking, wrapping, and general holiday time it is hard to think even of entertaining. We are constantly talking about who we can have over for impromptu cocktails or even dinner. Last week in the middle of everything, Lenny suggested a little holiday soiree with a friend of ours. Me being one who is eager to try out new recipes, said Yes! This recipe for a very festive Za’atar Pomegranate Cheese Ball came together quickly and was a huge hit as in devoured in no time.
During this time of the year, I like to have some up my sleeve quick and easy recipes to break out when last-minute occasions arise. I always have a few go-to recipes that I know I can count on, as well as a few new ones to try out on unexpected guests. Lately that has been a cheese ball or two. It sounds cheesy, but it is an appetizer that always makes people smile.
I trusted my cheesemonger at my local market when I asked for suggestions for this new recipe. I expressed that I wanted to use pomegranates as well as za’atar but wasn’t sure where to go from there. He informed me that I should go with a tangy cheese such as goat cheese, which would be a great pairing with the slightly tart pomegranate seeds. He also mentioned that I should save my money by using an everyday goat cheese mixed with some cream cheese for stability and let the rest of the seasonings enhance my cheese ball.
I was happy that I went with his suggestions as he was right in this decision-making process. The tangy goat cheese, not only went well with the pomegranates but also pairs well with the za’atar. The lemon zest I decided to add at the last moment and it was a good decision.
A few things that keep me sane during the hustle and bustle of the holiday season besides trusted recipes to throw together are the following pantry items that pair nicely with any kind of cheese ball.
- Raincoast Crisps – their unique flavors blend well with all flavors of cheese balls. I have found it is the one cracker that everyone loves. I served Rosemary Raisin Pecan with this recipe.
- Simple Crisp – beautifully dried fruit that pairs really well with all cheese. Apple paired very well with this recipe.
- Nuts – a handful or two of toasted nuts. I usually pick up a small amount from the bulk section and toast them just before serving.
- Champagne – it is the holidays break open a lovely French Champagne to celebrate.
- Lillette – I like to have a bottle of rose or blanc on hand to add to a glass of champagne to make a festive cocktail.
Here are a few other cheese ball recipes I like to serve during the holidays, as well as some fun champagne cocktails that are festive and pair nicely.
- Blue Cheese Ball
- Christmas Tree Cheese Ball
- Sage, Rye Blue Cheese Ball
- Classic Champagne Cocktail
- Aperol Champagne Cocktail
- Cranberry Champagne Cocktail
- Sugared Cranberries – so pretty in a champagne glass
I think the most important thing to keep in mind during the busy holidays is to relax, smile, and have fun. It always works out, and the people around you, really want to spend time together more than anything else.
More Cheese Balls
- 8 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
- 8 ounces plain goat cheese, room temperature
- 1 tablespoon Za'atar
- zest from 1 organic Meyer lemon (washed, and always use organic when using the zest)
- 2 tablespoons finely minced Italian parsley
- seeds from 1 very ripe medium-sized pomegranate
- crackers to serve with
Whip the cream cheese and goat cheese with a hand mixer until fluffy, about 2 minutes.
Add the Za'atar, lemon zest, and parsley. Mix well for 1 minute. Place the mixture into a small bowl, and then chill for 30 minutes
Shape into two balls, wrap in waxed paper and cheese for at least 2 hours.
Just before serving press the pomegranate seeds lightly into the cheese ball until covered.
Be sure both cheeses are at room temperature before mixing together, otherwise, you will have a clumpy cheese ball.