Cheese Ball
6 to 8 servings
Adapted from Deep Run Roots by Vivian HowardYou can use any kind of dried fruit to mix into this cheese ball. I stuck with dates, but suspect that dried cranberries or cherries would give it a wintery, festive feel, if you serve it around the holidays. For the hot sauce, I used Mexican hot sauce, but Tabasco, Sriracha, harissa, or another favorite spicy condiment, would work.Cream cheese in France is called pâte à tartiner or fromage à tartiner (spreading paste or cheese), and can be found is grocery stores. If you can’t find fresh goat cheese, feta would work. (Since feta can be quite salty, add salt to taste.) You won’t need all the butter-roasted pecans, but leftovers are great as a snack, or tossed with salads or steamed green beans.
For the butter roasted pecans
3/4 cup (75g) pecans
1 tablespoon melted butter
1/4 teaspoon flaky sea salt, plus a sprinkle more
For the cheese ball
1/3 cup (2 ounces, 55g) butter
1/4 cup (35g) crumbled blue cheese
1/4 cup (40g) crumbled fresh goat cheese
6 tablespoons (3 ounces, 85g) cream cheese
1/4 cup pitted, chopped dates
2 tablespoons minced scallions or chives
1/2 teaspoon hot sauce
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup (35g) chopped butter-roasted pecans
2 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley
For the butter-roasted pecans
1. Preheat the oven to 350ºF (180ºC).
2. Toss pecans with the melted butter and sprinkle with 1/4 teaspoon flaky sea salt. Spread them on a baking sheet and bake, stirring once or twice during baking, until they’re toasted, 10 to 12 minutes. Remove them from the oven, sprinkle and toss with a bit more salt. Let cool then coarsely chop 1/3 cup (35g) of the pecans. (The butter-roasted pecans can be made a few days in advance and stored in an airtight container.)
For the cheese ball
1. Put the butter, blue cheese, goat cheese, and cream cheese in the bowl of a stand mixer and let come to room temperature. (You can also make this by hand, in a medium-size bowl, using a sturdy stirring utensil.)
2. Add the chopped dates, scallions or chives, hot sauce, and salt to the bowl with the cheeses and butter. Attach the paddle attachment to the mixer and mix the ingredients until thoroughly combined. Taste, and add a bit more hot sauce if desired. Refrigerate the mixture until chilled enough to handle and shape, about 30 minutes or so.
3. Spread the chopped pecans on a dinner plate. Shape the chilled cheese mixture into a ball and roll it in the pecans. Spread the chopped parsley on the plate and roll the cheese ball in the parsley.

Serving and storage: The cheese ball should be served at room temperature. It can be made a few days ahead and refrigerated until ready to serve. It’s best served with plain crackers along with a favorite jam, such as cherry jam or apricot jam, or tangy chutney, such as fig chutney or green tomato-apple chutney.