New Year’s Eve is all about the nibbles! Appetizers are the first (and often only) course nourishment for a long, long night of festivities, so it’s essential to offer a plentiful assortment for guests to enjoy. My personal party will feature a platter of veggies and OPA by Litehouse™ Greek yogurt ranch dip, roasted shrimp skewers and a unique recipe I created last year for Figgy Blue Cheese Bites (made with fig cookies)! However, I would be remiss not to offer guests a cheese ball; this must-make sphere of cheesy, creamy goodness has probably graced every holiday table of hors d'oeuvres since the 1950s.
Rather than a single, super-sized ball of cheese meant to be dug into by all and spread atop crackers; I thought it would be more modern to make bite-sized cheese balls accented with an accompaniment of unexpected vegetables. Viola, my recipe for One-Bite Gorgonzola Pecan Cheese Balls with Beets & Palm Hearts was born – the appearance is festive, the flavor is perfect and they are so easy to make when your time in the kitchen is tight. The richly aged gorgonzola complements the earthy tones of beet and the pleasantly mild taste of palm. Both beets and heart of palm are vegetables that have a very low calorie value for the amount of health benefits they offer – like fiber, iron, magnesium, potassium and a ton of vitamins. It’s always good to sneak a little extra nutrition where you can! Depending on your personal tastes and the dietary preferences of your guests, there are some serving options for this simple yet stunning appetizer recipe. The main recipe calls for making the gorgonzola balls and coating them in pecans and parsley before topping with beet and palm and drizzling with balsamic vinegar syrup. You can find balsamic syrup on the condiment aisle of the market or make your own reduction by simmering down balsamic vinegar to one-fourth the amount you started with.—I go for convenience with the store-bought syrup. If you don’t like balsamic vinegar or the taste of beets and palm hearts, you can serve these little cheese balls without the extras. It would be a nice touch to set a basket of crackers, pita chips or large croutons nearby. If you need to go nut-free or are trying to please kids, simply swap out the parsley and pecans and substitute in an equal amount of finely crushed chips. I used sweet potato chips put in a zip-top bag and crushed with a rolling pin – but feel free to use whatever chip you like best. Also, it’s fun to use pretzel sticks instead of a toothpicks for the handles! Happy New Year!