Cranberry Pistachio Salsa with Goat Cheese

A dear family friend in Texas made this dish a few years ago, and my reaction to it was so disproportionately huge and effusive that she (being an extremely classy and thoughtful woman) promptly mailed me a copy of the cookbook it came from. This dish would be a festive and impressive crowd pleasing appetizer any time of year, but given the colors, I highly recommend it as a Christmas-time contribution to any gathering.

The original recipe calls for warm brie, but I find the shelf life of warm brie to be too brief to be practical. I swapped out brie for goat cheese on this particular occasion, and I’ll never go back. The goat cheese not only means that this dish is good for hours, but it also adds a nice bright and tart flavor that enhances the whole thing.

I’m always looking for that appetizer I can bring to parties that is 1) low maintenance enough to be practical, 2) unique enough to be intriguing, and 3) pretty enough to secure some coveted “oooohs and aaahhhs.” This one hits all three.

Ingredients:

  • 12 oz fresh cranberries
  • 1/2 cup chopped scallions
  • 1 large (or 2 small) jalapeno, deseeded and diced
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro (plus a few leaves for garnish)
  • 2 tablespoons grated fresh ginger
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup toasted and chopped pistachios
  • 8 oz fresh plain goat cheese
  • Water crackers or other plain crackers for serving

Preparation:

Rinse the cranberries and pull out any that are bruised or too soft. Pop the cranberries in a food processor and blitz a few times until they are still quite chunky and coarsely chopped. The first time I made this dish I over-processed the cranberries until they were more finely chopped and the result was less pretty and also less tasty.

Put the cranberries in a medium-sized mixing bowl, and add the fresh lemon and sugar immediately. I find the cranberries actually start to oxidize a bit and lose some of their color if you don’t add the lemon juice promptly. Add the finely chopped jalapeno, grated ginger, fresh chopped cilantro, and diced scallions to the mixture. Cover and let sit in the fridge to marinate for 3 hours or so.

Toast and roughly chop the pistachios, and set aside (you want them to stay crunchy and only be added at the last moment).

When ready to serve, place the fresh goat cheese on the plate and spread the cranberry salsa around the goat cheese. Top with the toasted pistachios and a few extra cilantro leaves. Serve with some plain crackers and prepare to receive the disproportionately huge and effusive reactions of your friends.

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