Decorate Cheese for a Party Appetizer Tray

Cheese and Flowers

Like Cinderella before the ball, precut wedges of supermarket cheese are so plain that you'd hardly suspect their potential for transformation. But with the artful touch of some edible flowers and herbs sealed beneath a shimmering transparent aspic, such a cheese can- like Cinderella-be the prettiest sight of the party.

The cheeses look like a caterer's specialty, but they aren't difficult to prepare. If you can make gelatin, you won't have any trouble creating these glamorous appetizers. Once you've gathered the materials, experiment with flowers and greenery to arrive at the most attractive arrangemnt before you make the glaze that will seal it.

After the glazing is done, you can refrigerate the cheeses for up to 36 hours.

Choosing the cheeses....Any flat-surfaced cheese with an edible rind can be used. If you're combining several cheeses on a board or tray, select different shapes and sizes, one round, another rectangular, wedge or triangle of a third.

Types of Cheese

You'll want to choose cheese textures that are contrasting, such as a firm, a semisoft, and a soft. Though this technique makes even your favorite jack or cheddar look superb, a full round of ripe Brie or Camembert can also be enhanced by this treatment.

Refrigerate the cheese so it will be cold when you apply the glaze. This helps it adhere and set more quickly.

Edible decorations...Choose pesticide free, well washed leaves or sprigs of herbs, and petals or small blossoms of flowers. Suggested greenery; chives, dill, sage, thyme, tarragon, rosemary, watercress, cilantro and parsley. Just a few of the flowers you might decorate with are, pansies, roses, primroses, geraniums, carnations, nasturtiums, violets and strawberry blossoms.

After rinsing and blotting dry with paper towels, store the selection of leaves and flowers in plastic bags in the refrigerator until you're ready to garnish the cheese.

Aspic-glazed Cheese Instrucions..

Cheese Aspic

Here's everything you need to decorate and glaze several cheeses. Wine will give a cleaner, more sparkling aspic than broth.

2-cups dry white wine or regular strength chicken broth
1-envelope unflavored gelatin
flat surfaced cheese (any rind must be edible), chilled

Step 1..In a 2 to 3-quart pan, combine wine and gelatin; let stand for 5 minutes. Place over medium heat and stir until gelatin is compleletly dissolved and mixture is clear.

Step 2...Place pan in a larger container filled with ice water. Stir liquid occasionally (stir slowly so bubbles don't form) until it begins to thicken and look syrupy. If aspic becomes to firm, reheat to soften, then chill again until syrupy.

Step 3...Set cold cheese on a wire rack in a shallow rimmed pan. Arrange decorations on cheese to fix pattern, then remove decorations and set aside. Spoon a coat of aspic over top and sides of cheese; when slightly tacky (about 1 to 3 minutes), add decorations in desired pattern. Refrigerate entire pan with rack and cheese, uncovered, for about 15 minutes.

Step 4...Spoon more aspic over top and sides of cheese. If necessary, add 1 or 2 more coats, refrigerating after each layer is added, in order to cover all exposed portions of decorations.

Step 5...When cheese is completely covered with glaze, invert a bowl over cheese with out touching surface and refrigerate until ready to serve (up to 36 hours).

Step 6...Unused aspic (including drippings from under rack) can be refigerated, covered, for several days. Reheat to melt, then chill as before over a larger container of ice water until syrupy enough to coat cheese.

Makes enough to coat six 3 by 5 inch rectangles of cheese with 3 layers of aspic