It’s Carolyn today bringing you a simple recipe to help you shine in a social situation. We’ve all had the experience of politely asking what you can bring when invited to a dinner party. “How about an appetizer?” the hostess (or host) suggests. Oh oh, now what? We know the perfect appetizer should be both delicious and amusing. Chips and dip? Way too trite. A vegetable tray? Healthy, but nobody eats them.
These Wild Seed Cheese Appetizers are the perfect solution. They are a good conversation starter and you can star as a savvy wild-food expert. The appetizers come together very quickly if you already have a stash of seeds; not too bad even if you have to hunt up some barrel cactus fruit. Barrel cactus are one of the easiest wild foods to gather: they are usually about knee-level, the plants have vicious thorns but the fruit is free of spines, and as Savor Sister Jacqueline told us in an earlier Savor post, they can bloom up to three times a year, making ample fruit available. If you happen to have some saguaro seeds, they will work as well. And like all seeds, they bring great nutrition. After all, in that tiny package they contain all the nutrition necessary for starting another whole plant.
This is what you are looking for is a cactus that looks like the one in the top photo. No need to use tongs to gather. When you get home, first wash the fruit and cut each in half and this is what you’ll see:
Halved barrel cactus seeds showing the nutritious seeds.
You can dry the seeds in the fruit or scoop them out and spread them on a cookie sheet. If you are trying to rush the process, toast them for a few minutes in a dry frying pan. When dry, the seeds will have a little white material. Shake the seeds in a bowl and the white matter will rise to the top and you can blow it off. If you are including the seeds in something like cake or muffins, just ignore the white and it will disappear into the batter. You can find a recipe for gluten-free cake using barrel cactus seeds here.
The appetizer recipe is basically a cheese-butter-flour mixture most easily made in a food processor. If you don’t have a food processor, you can combine the ingredients with a heavy spoon and some elbow grease. Chile powder adds a delicious zip to the cheese balls. I used chipotle powder, but you can use chiltepine or another flavoring of your choice.
Now here’s a use for that melon-baller that’s been bouncing around in your drawer unused for years. Using it to scoop up the dough made perfect sized appetizers.
Scoop out small balls of cheese dough with a melon-baller. I you don’t have one, use a spoon and roll dough into balls.
Put about a half cup of seeds in a small dish and press each ball of cheese dough into the seeds. Then line them up on a cookie sheet to bake.
Appetizers ready to go in the oven.
And the finished appetizers, ready to serve.
A plate of cheese appetizers topped with crunchy and nutritious barrel cactus seeds.
There is a necessary warning before I go further. These little devils are so delicious you will be tempted to just take a bottle of wine to the party and keep these at home, all for yourself. Rich, spicy. So yum. Here’s the recipe:
Cactus Seed Cheese Appetizers
½ pound shredded cheddar cheese
½ pound (2 sticks) soft butter
2 ½ cups flour (can use part whole wheat or non-wheat flour)
1 teaspoon salt
½ to 1 teaspoon chipotle powder or cayenne
¼ cup barrel cactus or saguaro seeds
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Mix all ingredients except the seeds. This is most easily done in a food processor, but can also be done with a heavy spoon and some elbow grease. Roll small balls using a melon-baller if you have one. Put seeds in a shallow bowl. Press each cheese ball into the seeds deeply enough so that they adhere. Bake on ungreased cookie sheets at 350 degrees F. for 13-15 minutes. Makes 4 dozen.
Carolyn Niethammer writes cookbooks showcasing the use of edible wild plants of the arid Southwest. They include The Prickly Pear Cookbook, Cooking the Wild Southwest, and American Indian Cooking, Recipes from the Southwest. You can buy them through Native Seeds/SEARCH, Amazon, or ask your independent bookstore to order them for you.