October 28, 2015

Pomegranate Studded Cheese Ball With Crispy Sage & Nuts

I don't know about you guys, but I love the elaborate events…as long as I’m not the one hosting. When in charge of the festivities, though,I prefer the sophistication of simplicity. Six friends, comfy couches, small plates; slam-dunk! But a celebration does call for a bit a bang and a whole lot of indulgence.

This pomegranate-studded cheese-ball hits the mark on all counts and is dressed to totally impress. Plus, it’s a delicious way to be a knock-out host. Tart, sweet, ruby red pearls of pomegranate encase a sublime combination of tangy, creamy cheese, nutty sage-infused butter, and slivers of crunchy toasted almonds. Heaven, I tell you!

So the next time you pull out your cheese platter, remember to think beyond the wedge.

2 tablespoons butter
10 fresh sage leaves (or other herbs of your choice)
1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, softened
4 ounces mascarpone cheese**, softened
6 ounces freshly grated cheddar cheese
1/2 cup slivered, toasted almonds (or other nuts of your choice)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 cup fresh pomegranate seeds
Crudités, crackers, nuts for serving
** Mascarpone Cheese Substitute: If you can’t find mascarpone cheese, substitute by combining 8 ounces cream cheese, 1/4 cup cream, and 2 1/2 tablespoons sour cream. 

Over a medium heat, melt the butter in a frying pan and when it starts to sizzle, add the sage leaves, frying until the sage is crispy. It takes about a minute per side and be sure to flip the leaves for even cooking.Remove the sage leaves from the pan and drain on a paper napkin to crisp them up. Reserve the butter.

In a large bowl, add the softened cream cheese, mascarpone, and cheddar and beat with an electric mixer until combined. 

Add the nuts, crispy sage leaves, reserved butter, salt, and pepper, mixing on a low speed until just combined. Over-beating can result in a light, airy mixture that’s too soft to shape into a ball.

Empty the contents of the bowl onto a sheet of cling wrap and slowly begin to pull up the corners of the plastic, gently pushing the mixture into the center to shape it into a ball. Don’t worry if the shape doesn’t look perfect. Stick it in the fridge for 30 to 45 minutes to firm the cheese up a little and then reshape for a smoother, rounder ball. 

While you’re waiting, spread the pomegranate seeds in a single layer on a paper napkin to drain the excess juices. Skipping this step is tempting, but it can result in unsightly red liquid dripping and staining the cheese and your platter. 

Remove the cheese-ball from the fridge and retouch the shape if needed. Then roll the ball around in the pomegranate seeds, gently pressing them into the cheese to make sure they stick. Then use the remaining pomegranate to fill in any cracks and crevices. 

Serve with crackers and crudités. 

October 15, 2015

Food Blogging 101: The 13 Dos & Don'ts You Need To Know

With Hunger & Haw Hai's third birthday is coming up next month, it’s been a few years into blogging now, and after poring over stacks of books, researching endlessly for advice, following a legion of food blogs, freelancing for a couple of publications, and keeping Hunger & Haw Hai afloat, I’m still nowhere near tech-ninja status, but I’ve definitely learned a thing or two along the way.

It hasn’t all been useful or practical or easy to decipher — damn you, Javascript. And plenty of it has just been plain redundant and vague — “write great content” — why thank you, Captain Obvious. But there are a couple of pointers that I’ve found indispensable as I fumbled my way through. 

I love these tips for a couple of reasons.

For one, they apply whether you’re a rookie or a food blogging savant. Plus, these guidelines  as just as effective at getting you started as they are at keeping you going. And, finally, because  I find myself referring to them over and over again when I need direction.

I’m not going to bore you with the basics. 

If you’re reading this, you probably already understand the importance of your blog’s visual appeal, and you get that posting regularly keeps readers engaged, and you know the struggle of precisely angling that fork to get the perfect photo. 

Instead, I’m going chalk out what’s worked for me.