Goat Cheese, Pesto and Fig Cheesecake
My high school friend Laurie Bullington of Birmingham, AL, has a go-to appetizer she says always gets devoured. I shared the recipe in my cookbook, Anne Byrn Saves the Day. It’s a little like a terrine but spreads on a cracker like cheesecake. And we love it for parties of all types, all year long. Especially in the summer when we make our own pesto from the basil that grows in the garden and our own fig preserves from the big fig tree outside my kitchen window. But then, it’s also really nice during the holidays because it’s just so festive and pretty to look at. And those Sweet and Spicy Pecans that go on top? Make extra of them and bag up for last-minute gifts.
GOAT CHEESE, PESTO AND FIG CHEESECAKE RECIPE:
Serves: 8 | Prep: 15 minutes | Chill: 1 hour, or overnight
4 ounces goat cheese, at room temperature
4 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
1/2 cup basil pesto (see My Easy Pesto)
1/2 cup fig preserves
Simple unsalted crackers for serving
Spray a 5 1/2-by 3-inch (mini) loaf pan with vegetable oil spray, and line it with waxed or parchment paper and set aside.
Place the goat cheese and cream cheese in a medium-size bowl and blend with an electric mixer on low speed until creamy, 30 seconds. Lightly press the cheese mixture into the loaf pan using a rubber spatula. Spoon the pesto over the cheese, spreading it out evenly. Cover the pan with plastic wrap and refrigerate until serving time, at least 1 hour.
Just before serving, remove the cheesecake from the fridge. Remove the plastic wrap and invert onto a serving plate. Spoon the preserves over the top. Top with chopped Sweet and Spicy Pecans, if desired, and serve with very simple crackers or rounds of toasted French bread.
Sweet and Spicy Pecans: Place a large cast iron skillet over medium heat. Add 1 tablespoon butter, 2 tablespoons brown sugar, and 1 teaspoon hot sauce. Stir until the butter melts. Remove the pan from the heat. Stir in 1 cup pecan halves, and stir until the pecans are coated with the mixture. Reduce the heat to low, and place the skillet back over the heat. Cook and stir 1 minute, or until the pecans are lightly toasted, being careful not to burn the sugar. Remove the pan from the heat and let the pecans cool completely, 20 minutes.
My Easy Pesto: In a pinch, you can use a 3.5-ounce jar of prepared pesto found in the supermarket or better yet, make this recipe. To keep the pesto green, I use a mixture of fresh basil and arugula. Place 1 clove peeled garlic in a food processor fitted with a steel blade. Mince until fine. Add 2 cups basil leaves and 2 cups arugula leaves and process. Add 2 tablespoons pine nuts, 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese, salt and pepper to taste. Process briefly. With the motor running, dribble in about 1/2 cup olive oil
until it thickens and comes together. Turn off the machine, scrape into a glass bowl with lid, and store.