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Pecan cheese ball

(Food Styling/Sheryl Julian &Amp; Catherine Smart; Aram Boghosian for The Boston Globe)
December 15, 2010

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Serves 8

Cream cheese and butter lend a spreadable texture to this spherical hors d’oeuvre, while cheddar and a dash of hot sauce add flavor. For the best color, pulse gently once the roasted red peppers are added. Make this a day in advance for the flavors to mellow; set the ball in a small bowl with a rounded bottom so it keeps its shape. Serve with mai tais, martinis, and Manhattans.

1 cup pecans, chopped

4 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature

4 tablespoons ( 1/2 stick) butter, at room temperature

1 clove garlic, chopped

2 teaspoons mustard powder

Salt and pepper, to taste

8 ounces (about 2 cups) shredded white cheddar

Dash hot sauce

1/4 cup roasted red peppers (from a jar or can), finely chopped

1. Set the oven at 350 degrees. On a rimmed baking sheet, spread the pecans. Toast for 5 minutes, or until aromatic. Cool completely.

2. In a food processor, work the cream cheese and butter until smooth. Scrape down the sides of the work bowl. Add the garlic, mustard, salt, pepper, cheddar, and hot sauce. Pulse just until smooth.

3. Add the red peppers and pulse until barely combined and not too pink. Taste for seasoning, and add more salt and pepper, if you like.

4. Scrape the cheese onto a sheet of plastic wrap. Use the wrap to shape it into a ball. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.

5. Spread the pecans on another sheet of plastic wrap. Roll the ball in the pecans, pressing nuts lightly so they stick to the cheese. Transfer to a plate. Serve with crackers.

Karoline Boehm Goodnick