We're on the cusp of spring and I'm still psychologically stuck in winter. Before it's too late, I want to share Fennel and Fig-Infused Vodka and Warm Mascarpone and Toasted Almond Spread. If you get started now, you'll still have a few cool evenings to enjoy what I think are some inspired and sophisticated treats.
I've been playing with infused vodkas for quite some time and recently made a batch of this sipping vodka for a small Sunday afternoon soiree. The fennel doesn't shine through as much as I would like, so next time, I'll bump up the flavor profile by adding some fennel seed, but the dried figs bring a gorgeous color and not-too-sweet honeyed quality that is perfect for sipping on the rocks or blending in your own inspired cocktails.
The warm, creamy toasted almond spread is lovely on its own, but it's pure magic with the fig essence in the vodka. You can purchase mascarpone (which I find to be ridiculously expensive) or you can make your own very simply for a 24-hour time investment and about three dollars.
We enjoyed this rich, luscious spread on fresh fennel and the delightful Ines Rosales Savory Olive Oil Tortas. Of course, crusty bread and other things would be great, but fresh fennel brought out the subtle fennel in the infused vodka and the savory tortas provided a great textural counterpoint.
Warm Mascarpone and Toasted Almond Spread
Adapted from How Sweet It Is.
6 oz. cream cheese, at room temperature (I used Neufchatel due to the fat content in the mascarpone)
6 oz. mascarpone, at room temperature
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1/8 tsp. ground nutmeg
freshly ground black pepper and salt to taste
1 cup sliced toasted almonds, divided
1.) Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
2.) In an oven-proof serving dish or crock, mix together the cream cheese, mascarpone, Parmesan, nutmeg, salt and pepper.
3.) Stir in 1/2 cup almonds.
4.) Bake for about 15 to 20 minutes.
5.) Remove from oven, sprinkle with remaining almonds and serve with crackers, pita chips, or fresh fennel.
6.) Makes about 2 cups.
May your tastebuds dance!