- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 12, 2008

A few weeks ago, Emily Bell, one of my longtime assistants, called to tell me about a new recipe she had created. I knew

from the excite ment in her voice that this was something special.

She had taken a retro appetizer from the ‘80s — baked brie — and updated it. A small 8-ounce round was topped with a glaze prepared with apricot preserves, sauteed onions, a splash of red wine vinegar, and some country-style Dijon mustard. Then sliced almonds were sprinkled over the wheel before it was baked.

Served warm with thin crackers and sliced fruit, the cheese had been a huge hit with her family. I couldn’t wait to try the recipe, but since my husband and I are empty nesters, I waited for an occasion when we could share it with others.

An opportunity arose several days ago when a neighbor called to invite us for dinner. I volunteered to bring a starter.

Although I followed the directions carefully, I did make a major change, substituting a Camembert for the brie. The cheeses are interchangeable in this dish, and I was seduced by a tempting mound of beautiful Camemberts at my local cheese shop.

This recipe met my basic criteria for appetizers. It was quick, simple and could be assembled in advance.

Apricot-glazed baked Camembert

8-ounce wheel Camembert

1 teaspoon olive oil

3 tablespoons finely chopped onions

1/3 cup apricot preserves

1 teaspoon country-style Dijon mustard

1/4 teaspoon red wine vinegar, plus more if needed

2 tart apples

1 tablespoon lemon juice

1/4 cup slivered almonds

Arrange a rack in center and heat oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with foil and place the Camembert in the center of the baking sheet. Heat olive oil in a small heavy skillet over medium heat. Add onions and saute until softened and lightly browned, about 2 minutes. Remove pan from the heat. Add the preserves and stir until they are melted. Add mustard and vinegar; stir until well combined. Let cool for 5 minutes. Add more vinegar if mixture is too sweet.

Spoon the apricot mixture on top of the cheese and spread evenly. Refrigerate, uncovered, on the baking skeet for 30 minutes. (The cheese can be prepared 2 hours ahead; leave uncovered and refrigerated.)

Halve and core, but do not peel, the apples. Cut each into 1/4-inch-thick wedges and toss in the lemon juice to prevent discoloring. Set aside. Remove the cheese from the refrigerator and press the slivered almonds on top of the mixture. Bake the cheese until warm and just softened when you touch the sides, about 8 minutes. Watch carefully so that the cheese does not split and the almonds do not burn. Remove from the oven and cool for 3 to 4 minutes. To serve, lift the cheese on the foil to a serving plate. Cut or tear away the excess foil. Garnish the cheese with the apple wedges. Makes 6 to 8 servings.


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