For years, I have kept a package of cream cheese in the fridge to make an appetizer, either for unexpected company or because I just feel like it. You can dump on top of it, or beat it into, all kinds of stuff, then spread the savory result on a cracker or slice of toasted baguette. The holidays can be so busy that even though it is very nice to trot out fancy fare, sometimes it is terrific to have an easy item or two to entertain with.
I picked up the crab and cream cheese appetizer 25 years ago from a friend in Connecticut. This is super flexible: You can use little Maine shrimp, cooked salmon or trout, or, if you want to be economical, even tuna fish. The ketchup and horseradish combination for the top of the appetizer is what some people buy ready-made as “cocktail sauce.” I haven’t bought any cocktail sauce since it is so easy to throw together.
Olives and cream cheese are famous as an old-fashioned sandwich spread, but of course, these days we can buy wonderful varied olives in the deli section of stores. You can acquire black and green olives cured in oil or brine. You’ll find olives spicy with red pepper and garlicky ones; some will be pitted, some are stuffed. Tape-nade is easy to come by, too, and you can beat some into the cream cheese and put more on top.
It seems like I always have a jar of garlic or onion jelly around, often presented as a gift and welcome though not what I want on breakfast toast. Chutney is another preserve that works well with cream cheese when used similarly to the jelly.
Looking for … QUERIES. Sure you can look for a recipe on the web, but I’d rather hear from neighbors and get a little straight from the shoulder advice and personal recommendations. Is there some dish you’d like a recipe for? Send it along to Taste Buds and we’ll ask for it here.
8 ounces of cream cheese, softened
5 to 6 ounces of crabmeat, cooked shrimp or tuna
½ cup ketchup
1 tablespoon of horseradish (or less to taste)
Mix the cream cheese and seafood together adding a splash or two of soy sauce. Mound on a serving plate and chill until you are ready to serve. Mix together the ketchup and horseradish and spread over the top of the cream cheese mixture. Garnish with capers or parsley.
Olive and Cream Cheese with Tapenade
8 ounces of cream cheese softened
¼ cup of green and-or black olives, finely chopped
¼ cup of tapenade
Mix the cream cheese and olives together until the olives are well distributed. Mound on a serving plate and chill. Just before serving spread the tapenade over the olive and cream cheese mixture. Garnish with bits of pimento, parsley or lemon zest, and offer with crackers.
Cream Cheese Appetizer with Garlic or Onion Jelly or Chutney
8 ounces of cream cheese
Garlic or onion jelly or chutney
Place the cream cheese on a serving plate, and with a broad knife, make a series of dents over the top. Spread the jelly or chutney over the cream cheese. Offer crackers to spread the mixture on.