The Basil-Avocado Cheese Spread

I HAVE TWO FRIENDS IN ST. PETERSBURG, FLORIDA, who love fresh basil so much that they grow it year round in enormous whiskey barrels and use it to make everything but ice cream. While silky avocado–cream cheese spread is certainly nothing new at Southern cocktail parties, when my obsessed friends decided to perk it up with a little basil, it was transformed into a modern wonder. Serve the spread with a wide assortment of crackers or toasted bagel chips.

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2 large ripe avocados, peeled, seeded, and cut into chunks 3 scallions (part of green tops included), chopped 1⁄3 cup chopped fresh parsley leaves 3 tablespoons chopped fresh basil leaves 2 garlic cloves, chopped 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste One and one-half 8-ounce packages cream cheese, cut into pieces and softened In a blender or food processor, blend together the avocados, scallions, parsley, basil, garlic, lime juice, and salt and pepper till smooth. Scrape the mixture down the sides, add the cream cheese, and blend 1 minute longer. Scrape the spread into an attractive serving bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and chill at least 1 hour or till firm.

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