Yesterday, I discussed the transformation of a once-dreaded holiday appetizer: the cheese ball. But you can make a truly inspired organic starter if you try some of the new approaches suggested by the Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board:

  • Wrap your cheese ball in style. Use a higher-end nut, such as roasted pine nuts or hazelnuts.
  • Wrap Brie in puff pastry, brush with egg wash, and bake for a sophisticated appetizer (“Brie en croute”).
  • Go ethnic. As Emeril Lagasse would say, “Kick it up a notch.” Combine a flavored organic Monterey Jack cheese (such as pepper jack) with salsa, and roll it in toasted pepitas (pumpkin seeds). Serve with organic corn chips.

One important note: This isn’t the time to roll out your fanciest homemade breads. Keep it simple (translation: relatively bland), and let the cheese ball be the star of the show. Perfect accompaniments include baguettes, nut breads and water crackers.

For best results, always bring your cheese to room temperature before blending it with other ingredients. Then, refrigerate the cheese ball until it’s firm. Before serving, bring it back to room temperature for easy spreading and enhanced flavor.