Inspired Entertaining: Marinated Cream Cheese

Cheese plate at my Weeknight Cooking Class
Whenever I teach a cooking class or host a cooking event, I make sure to set out some kind of snack or appetizer for my guests (what I prefer to call my students) to nibble on during the first couple hours of the class before the food is ready. I usually offer some kind of fresh fruit or vegetables, bread or crackers, and some cheese. For my most recent class, I prepared this marinated cream cheese appetizer and it was such a hit that I thought I'd share the idea with you here.

This is a twist on the marinated goat cheese that I served at birthday party earlier this month. To save money, I decided to try replacing the goat cheese, which costs about $9 a log at my local store, with a $2 package of neufchâtel--a very common cream cheese-cousin available in most supermarkets right next to the Philadelphia.  I cut an 8oz package in half, and served it topped with some very good extra virgin olive oil, fresh lemon zest, freshly ground black pepper, a pinch of sea salt, and a generous sprinkle of red pepper flakes. Letting it sit for about 30 minutes or so will help the cheese soften and absorb some of the bright flavors.

Served with warmed, crusty baguette slices, rice crackers and a bunch of sweet green grapes, it was a lovely and elegant--but very inexpensive--appetizer to serve my guests.

No need for a recipe here--just drizzle the cheese with oil and whatever herbs or spices you'd like. And if you can't find neufchâtel, you can, of course substitute regular ol' Philadelphia cream cheese. (Ricotta would be lovely as well!)

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