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Creole cream Cheese with mint and strawberry-infused balsamic 

Dessert Recipe by Russ Lane. Creole cream cheese recipe by Poppy Tooker.

Makes up to 8 half-cup servings.

Strawberry balsamic vinegar (one week lead time):

1 quart Louisiana strawberries, rinsed, hulled and halved

16 ounces balsamic vinegar

1 tablespoon whole black peppercorns

  Add strawberries and peppercorns to a nonmetal, airtight container and submerge berries in vinegar. Seal the container and let it sit in a warm, dry spot for at least a day. Transfer the container to a refrigerator until ready for use. The berries are preserved in vinegar; longer sit times increase the intensity of the flavor.

Creole cream cheese (two-day lead time):

1 gallon skim milk

1/2 cup buttermilk

1/2 teaspoon liquid vegetable rennet

  In a large stainless steel or glass bowl, combine skim milk, buttermilk and vegetable rennet, stir and cover with plastic wrap. Leave the mixture at room temperature for 24 hours. Use a slotted spoon to scoop solids into cheese molds. Place the molds on a roasting pan rack, cover them with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 8 hours. Remove cheese from molds and store in a separate container.

Assembling dessert (10 minutes):

1 pint Louisiana strawberries, rinsed, dried and halved

Fresh mint, chopped, for garnish

2 tablespoons sugar substitute (optional)

  Heat a small saucepan over medium heat. Add 1/2 cup strawberry vinegar and heat until thick syrup forms on the back of a wooden spoon. Remove from heat. Drizzle 4-8 martini glasses with small amounts of balsamic syrup along the sides. Put 1/4 cup Creole cream cheese at the bottom of the martini glasses. Remove several strawberries from the vinegar and strain out as much excess liquid as possible. Combine these macerated strawberries with fresh strawberries and use them to top the cheese. Place the remaining Creole cream cheese on top, and garnish with chopped mint and one fresh strawberry drizzled with balsamic syrup.

Per serving: calories 216, total fat 3.2 g (saturated fat 0.7 g, polyunsaturated fat 2.2 g, monounsaturated fat 0.3 g), cholesterol 10 mg, sodium 281 mg, potassium 962 mg, total carbohydrates 33 g, dietary fiber 1.8 g, sugars 28 g, protein 18 g.

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