Toasted Cumin and Roasted Garlic Cream Cheese with Flatbreads

This hors d'oeuvre was inspired by one of my mother's favorite bridge club treats -- a giant cheese ball. She would usually cover it with nuts and serve it with Ritz crackers. This is a great appetizer that can be made weeks in advance and kept submerged in the marinade in the refrigerator. I've made individual cheese balls, which are more inviting than a huge ball that everyone chisels away at.

Toasted Cumin and Roasted Garlic Cream Cheese with Flatbreads

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    1 teaspoon assorted whole peppercorns: white, black, green and pink 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
    1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil 1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, or light cream cheese, chilled
    2 tablespoons whole cumin seed Assorted flatbreads and crackers, for serving
    3 tablespoons chopped cilantro, plus whole leaves for garnish 1 large head garlic
    1/2 teaspoon kosher salt


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    • 1

      Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Cut the top third off the head of garlic. Rub the cut sides with 1 teaspoon of the olive oil. Loosely wrap in foil and roast for 35 to 40 minutes, until the cloves are very tender. Remove and let cool.

    • 2

      Meanwhile, place a paper towel on a cutting board and spread the peppercorns on it. Place a clean, heavy skillet on top of the peppercorns and, using the palm of your hand, press hard on the pan, gently rolling it over the peppercorns to crack them. Set aside.

    • 3

      In a small, dry pan over medium heat, toast the cumin seeds, swirling the pan often until the seeds are fragrant and toasted, about 3 minutes. Set aside to cool.

    • 4

      Squeeze the roasted garlic flesh, which now has a paste consistency, from each clove directly into a medium bowl. Add the crushed peppercorns, toasted whole cumin, chopped cilantro, salt, red pepper flakes and olive oil. Mix well.

    • 5

      Pinch off about a teaspoon of the cream cheese mixture with your fingers. Shape into 1/2-inch balls by rolling in the palm of your hands. Drop the balls into the olive oil spice mixture. Rinse your hands with water when they become too sticky, and continue rolling. Cover and marinate for several hours at room temperature or for several days in the refrigerator. The cheese balls will keep, covered, in the refrigerator up to 2 weeks.

    • 6

      To serve: Bring cheese balls to room temperature. For individual servings, spoon 3 or 4 cheese balls with some marinade into small glass cups or clean votive candleholders and arrange on a large platter. Lay flatbread "spoons," made by breaking a flatbread cracker lengthwise, on each rim for dipping. Place an additional glass filled with flatbread on the platter for extra dipping. Or serve cheese balls on a platter with the flatbreads and crackers.

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