Now that warm weather has arrived for good, my husband and I have opened our sun porch (which is shut during the winter months) and have spent the last several weeks relaxing and eating there. Opening our sun porch is always a signal to me that it is time to change to a more casual style of entertaining.
This past weekend, for example, we invited friends from Paris, who were visiting their son at college, for wine and hors d'oeuvres on our porch. I baked Cumin Pepper Crisps, a new recipe in my files, for the occasion. To make them, I blended shredded Monterey Jack and pepper Jack cheeses, butter, flour and ground cumin in my food processor, then rolled the mixture into a log and chilled it. I cut thin rounds from the log, sprinkled them with cumin seeds, and baked them until golden. These savory cocktail wafers, which can be baked a day ahead, are good warm or at room temperature. I baked the crisps ahead, reheated them in the oven for a few minutes at serving time, then arranged them around bowls of olives and toasted almonds.
These spicy wafers are quite versatile. They would be a fine accompaniment to black-bean soup or to gazpacho. They could also be served with a fresh tomato salsa in place of chips. And, because they are easy to pack, you could include them as a starter or a snack for a picnic at a distant spot.
Cumin Pepper Crisps
1/2 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
3 ounces (3/4 cup) shredded pepper Jack cheese
3 ounces (3/4 cup) shredded Monterey Jack cheese
1 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/8 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons whole cumin seeds
Place butter, cheeses, flour, ground cumin and salt in bowl of food processor. Process, pulsing, until ingredients are combined and dough forms rough ball. Remove from bowl. (Dough can also be blended in electric mixer. Cream butter and cheeses together until smooth, then on slow speed add flour, ground cumin and salt.)
Shape dough, which will be soft, into log 2 inches in diameter and 8 inches long. Wrap log tightly in plastic wrap and roll on counter to make compact. Place log in freezer to firm, about 1 hour. Transfer to refrigerator if not using immediately. (Dough can be made ahead and refrigerated up to 2 days. It can be frozen up to 2 weeks if wrapped tightly in plastic wrap, then in foil. Defrost in refrigerator before slicing and baking.)
When ready to bake, cut log into 1/4-inch-thick slices and place 1 inch apart on ungreased baking sheet. Press some whole cumin seeds on top of each round. Bake at 400 degrees on center rack until light golden, 12 to 15 minutes. Watch carefully. Remove from oven and leave on baking sheet 5 minutes. Remove crisps to serving dish with spatula. Serve warm or at room temperature. (Crisps can be made 1 day ahead and stored in airtight container at cool room temperature. Either reheat on baking sheet at 350 degree until hot, 3 to 5 minutes, or serve crisps at room temperature.) Makes about 32 crisps.
Pub Date: 5/31/98