Build Your Own Ritz 

It was an early Sunday evening affair, at my local yoga studio, so a full-blown dinner was out of the question. Finger food it would have to be, but I didn't want to do the same old tired lineup of every party we've all been to -- the crudités, the chip dip, the baked brie. I wanted a combination of sweet and savory, I wanted vittles that would go well with wine and, most of all, I wanted culinary surprises, both for me and my guests. Of the seven items on the table, the biggest hit was a homemade take on a Ritz cracker.

Plenty cheesy, with strong pepper notes, this biscuit has just the right amount of crunch to knit the curious eyebrows of your party pals. Best of all, the dough is a snap to make and, unlike other buttery doughs, it's very unfussy -- so bag the cheese straws, y'all!

Peppery Cheddar Coins

Adapted from Cookies Unlimited by Nick Malgieri

1 cup all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon ground black pepper

4 ounces (about 1 cup) sharp Cheddar cheese, coarsely grated

8 tablespoons (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into 10 pieces

• Combine flour, salt and pepper in a bowl; stir well to mix. In the bowl of a food processor, combine cheese and butter and pulse five or six times to mix.

Culinary questions? Reach CL's Kitchen Witch at kim.odonnel@creativeloafing.com.

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