Cheeseballs for everyone!


In lieu of working this morning, I decided to stay home and make cheeseballs.

Well, not cheeseballs exactly. Cheese dip. But cheeseballs has a better ring to it. When serving food to others, it’s important to have a name that intrigues them: OTHERS: (excitedly) “Oh, you’re serving cheeseballs?!” YOU: “Well yes! Except the ball is all broken up in a bowl. It’s more like a cheese dip, actually.” OTHERS: (a bit crestfallen) “Well I guess that’s okay…we could shape it into a ball, yes?”

Yes, you can, if you want to. But frankly these cheese dips taste so good you won’t care what shape they’re in – you’ll just be looking for different things to dip into them: crackers, tortilla chips, celery stalks, bread, chicken legs, really just about anything that goes well with cheese.

The first recipe is Zingerman’s version of pimiento cheese, an easy mix of cheddar, roasted red peppers, mayo, and some seasoning. (Note that pimientos are a type of sweet red pepper and roasted red pepper can be used interchangeably with it.) When I went to my least favorite (but conveniently near) grocery store and asked where I could find roasted red peppers, the clerk helpfully took me to the shelf where they used to be. “See the little sign where it says roasted red peppers? They were right there.” I asked if they were carried anywhere else in the store. He said, ruefully, that they were not.
One aisle later I found two additional brands, not to mention some fresh roasted red peppers in the deli. But at least the clerk was friendly while he was being wrong.

I settled on the second recipe after a fruitless search for a favorite recipe from a long-closed Ann Arbor institution, Drakes. I used to order their cream cheese and olive salad sandwiches regularly and follow those up with almond butter crunch from their candy selection. Boy, I miss that place.

Zingerman’s Pimiento Dip
1/2 pound sharp cheddar, coarsely grated
1 cup mayonnaise
2 ounces by weight roasted red peppers,
   diced (about 1/4 cup)
3/4 teaspoon juice from the roasted
   peppers (if you’re using jarred roasted
1/4 teaspoon coarsely ground black
Scant 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper,
   or to taste
Pinch coarse sea salt
Fold all the ingredients together in a mixing bowl. Mix well. Eat.

Auxilary Backup
Cream Cheese Olive Dip
8 oz. cream cheese, softened
1 c. pimiento stuffed olives, chopped
1/2 c. mayonnaise
2 tbsp. juice from olives
1/2 c. chopped pecans
You know the drill.

And if somebody is still pouting, shape it into a ball, roll it in some more chopped pecans, and present it proudly.

Nick Roumel is a principal with Nacht, Roumel, Salvatore, Blanchard and Walker, P.C., a litigation firm in Ann Arbor specializing in employment litigation. He also has many years of varied restaurant and catering experience, has taught Greek cooking classes, and writes a food/restaurant column for “Current” magazine.