Cook the Book: Cheese Ball with Cumin, Mint, and Pistachios

Cook the Book: Cheese Ball with Cumin, Mint, and Pistachios

The Essential New York Times Cookbook includes not one but two recipes for cheese balls. According to author and recipe tester extraordinaire Amanda Hesser, this Cheese Ball with Cumin, Mint, and Pistachios, an adaptation of her mother's 1970s cheese ball, was introduced in 2003, when the cheese ball had moved out of the mainstream and into the world of the deliciously ironic.

When I set about putting together this cheese ball it quickly became clear that Hesser had taken all of the kitsch out of it and transformed it into an elegant, updated starter. Cream cheese and goat cheese are whipped together with a whole slew of bright, thrilling flavors: lemon zest, cumin, coriander, fresh mint, and thinly sliced celery hearts. Once the ball has been formed and chilled, it's rolled in toasty pistachios for another layer of flavor and a chic bright green coating. The texture contrast of creamy cheese and crunchy celery is excellent on a cracker (or a toasted bagel the next morning.)

As always with our Cook the Book feature, we have five (5) copies of The Essential New York Times Cookbook to give away this week.

Reprinted from The Essential New York Times Cookbook by Amanda Hesser. Compilation copyright (c) 2010 by The New York Times Company and Amanda Hesser. Recipes and reprinted text copyright (c) 2010 by The New York Times Company. Used with permission of the publisher, W.W. Norton & Company, Inc.

  • Yield:8


  • 8 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 4 ounces fresh goat cheese, at room temperature
  • Grated zest of 1 lemon
  • 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Pecorino Romano, preferably Fulvi
  • 1 teaspoon toasted, ground coriander seeds
  • 1 teaspoon toasted, ground cumin seeds
  • 1/2 cup finely sliced celery hearts with leaves
  • 1/3 cup chopped mint
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • Sea salt
  • 1/3 cup salted pistachios, coarsely ground
  • Very thin plain crackers, for serving


  1. 1.

    Beat the cream cheese and goat cheese in a large bowl with a wooden spoon until creamy and light. Beat in the lemon zest and juice. Fold in the Pecorino Romano, coriander, cumin, celery, mint, and pepper. Season to taste with salt.

  2. 2.

    Lay a large piece of plastic wrap on the counter. Using a spatula, scrape the cheese mixture into the center of the plastic. Pull up the edges of the plastic wrap and form the cheese into a ball. Wrap tightly, place in a bowl to maintain the shape, and chill in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours.

  3. 3.

    Pour the ground pistachios into a shallow bowl. Unwrap the cheese ball and roll it in nuts until coated. Place the ball on a serving plate, cover with plastic wrap, and chill until ready to serve (or for up to 2 days).

  4. 4.

    Half an hour before serving, unwrap the cheese ball and let it come to room temperature. Serve with crackers.