Coeur du Jardin

This dish is the perfect first course for any buffet--luncheon, supper, or cocktail. It is such a beautiful dish that it almost can substitute for a centerpiece. It is also easy enough to bring along to a picnic (leave everything in plastic bags and assemble at the spot) and elegant enough for a formal occasion. Serves 6-8.

1 8-ounce package Philadelphia cream cheese (regular or whipped)
1 15-ounce carton ricotta cheese
2 tablespoons California Fish Seasoning (dill, chives, etc.) and pinch of thyme or 2 to 3 tablespoons chopped fresh herbs (e.g., chives, dill and basil)
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder or 1 minced clove garlic (optional)
Generous grindings of black pepper
Salt (optional--include a little salt if using all fresh herbs and garlic)
1/2 to 1 package triple-creme garlic/herb cheese [Boursin] (optional)*

Crudites (radishes, mushrooms, scallions, etc.)
Green olives, pitted or stuffed
Fresh herb sprigs for garnish (optional)
French bread or crackers

* 1/2 cup pesto sauce is a tasty substitution for the herbs and triple-creme cheese

Line a 3-cup (heart-shaped) Coeur a la Creme mold (or a colander or a disposable foil cake pan punched with holes at l-inch intervals) with a double layer of cheesecloth that has been soaked in cold water and then wrung out. Be sure that cheesecloth extends over the sides of the mold. Place in refrigerator.

In a food processor whip cream cheese until light and airy and add any seasonings and herbs, processing briefly to distribute (they will be mixed in more when the ricotta is added. Before adding ricotta cheese to the processor beaker, pour off any excess liquid or whey in the ricotta. Mix the ricotta cheese and the cream cheese by processing in bursts until just mixed through. (If this is too much for your processor, do in approximate half batches and mix in a bowl.) Taste and adjust seasonings.

Spoon mixture into cloth-lined mold, bringing cheesecloth over top. Set mold, right side up, on a cake rack over shallow pan and refrigerate. Drain overnight.

Prepare crudites by washing vegetables well and fashioning them into the most decorative relishes you know how to do: radish roses, fluted mushrooms, carrot curl roses, cucumber "daisies" or fluted cucumber rounds, etc. Chill each variety in a plastic bag to keep fresh and crisp until serving. (An ice cube or two may be added to those you would ordinarily immerse in cold water to hold shape.)

Just before serving, unmold Coeur du Jardin on a large serving platter. To unmold, fold back the cheesecloth and invert on the platter. (If you want to be traditional but aren't using a heart-shaped mold, you can shape the cheese at this point into a heart with your hands.) Carefully peel off cheesecloth. Surround with the bouquets of vegetables (blotting any with excess water first), scattering the different varieties throughout the wreath and adding the olives where needed for color contrast. Fresh herb sprigs can be tucked into the Della Robbia wreath if they are available. Serve with fresh crisp-crusted French bread and small knives.

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This recipe is copyright ©1985, 1999 William and Loretta Marshall.
Questions and comments can be sent here.
Page last updated 5/15/99.