Miniature Blue Cheese Balls with Winter Fruit
|30 dried apricots|
|4 tsp pure vanilla extract|
|2/3 cup pecans, coarsely chopped|
|4 oz cream cheese, cut into chunks and at room temperature|
|4 oz (3/4 cup) blue cheese, crumbled|
|1 Tbsp French Brandy*|
|1/2 Tbsp yellow onion, grated|
Preheat oven to 375°F.
Place apricots in sauce pan. Add water until barely covered, and stir in vanilla. Bring apricots to boil, uncovered, and simmer until tender, 1 to 4 minutes depending on dryness of apricots. Test with fork. The apricots should be tender but not limp. Drain and dry well. Set aside.
Spread pecans on baking sheet. Toast pecans for 4 to 5 minutes in preheated oven until aromatic. Stir after 2 minutes and watch so nuts do not scorch. Remove and pour pecans on waxed paper. Once they have cooled, whirl pecans in blender or food processor until very fine. Set aside.
Place cream cheese, blue cheese, and brandy in food processor bowl. Pulse until all ingredients are well blended. Add onions and pulse briefly to incorporate. (You may also blend the mixture in the bowl of an electric mixer.) Remove mixture to bowl and refrigerate at least 2 hours.
Remove cheese mixture from refrigerator. Form miniature balls and dip tops in pecans. Place on apricot, nut side up. Repeat until all mixture is used. If it is too soft, spoon onto apricots, rounding the top, and sprinkle with pecans.
*If a non-alcoholic mixture is preferred, substitute sherry extract. Start with 1/4 tsp and add to taste.