“How is it possible that you always have stuff to whip up a cheese board when people stop in unannounced”?
I’ve heard this from people that stop in more times than I can count .
And, seriously, it’s really easy to look all Martha Stewartish…you just need the right tools (or, I should say, ingredients!).
I figured it’s time that I jot down a few notes to help you guys know what to grab at tthe store (and many of these things you may already have on hand!!) to have a mini summer party!!
Step one: Get all your ingredients out.
1. Choose a few types of cheese: pick about 3-5 cheeses and factor for about 4 ounces per person (although, having leftover cheese is never a bad thing!). Also, make sure you have at least one non-milk cheese for those who have intolerance issues.
Aged/Smoked: Aged Cheddar, Goat Gouda (I used smoked caciocavalo)
Soft: Camembert, Brie, goat cheese (you can keep a vacuum packed log of goat cheese in your fridge to have in a pinch)
Hard: Parmigiano-Reggiano (you should always have a chunk of parmigiano in your fridge – it lasts forever if you cover it with a paper towel and wrap it loosely with plastic wrap), or Romano
Blue: Gorgonzola, Stilton, Cambozola (my fav because it’s a bit more mild)
2. Some Fruits and Veg: remember to include both sweet and non-sweet items
Fruit: grapes are always a great option because they pair wonderfully with cheese as well as pears (and granny smith apples)….cut pears and apples into slices and drizzle with lemon juice to prevent browning. Another perfect fruit are cherries (you can find lots of them at your local grocer at this time of year). In the fall, I would use fresh figs (or even dried because you can keep those in your pantry).
Veggies: I used cherry tomatoes which I like because they are savoury and sweet. I also like sliced cucumbers (baby carrots are not my fav because they get a white film on them after being exposed to the air for a while… still good, but don’t look that pretty!!)
3. Intriguing Add-ins: These are things that you can keep in your fridge/pantry for the longest time and pairing them with your cheeses will really surprise your guest!
Jam: I make a black currant jam because I have loads of currants growing in my garden..It’s not overly sweet so it goes really well with most cheeses (especially soft cheese like brie or goat cheese). Another jam that I always have in my fridge is fig jam because it is excellent with most cheese (as well as prosciutto!!).
Honey: a drizzle of honey on a hard salty cheese like parmigiano is always a nice addition (honey on parm is actually called a bee sting!). I actually have a small jar of truffle honey in my fridge as a luxurious treat for those that like truffle!
Coffee Grounds: I now this is weird but it’s amazing (try parm that has been drizzled with truffle honey and then a teeny sprinkle of coffee on top…unreal!!).
Other stuff you have on hand: think pantry staples like olives, roasted peppers, artichoke hearts can all add to your board!
4. Meat: My dad always makes me salami and prosciutto so I always have some in my fridge. But, if you don’t have access to someone who can make it for you, just grab a good quality salami/sopressata/prosciutto and keep it in your fridge for just these kind of days!! Remember, you are looking for dry meats to keep on hand because they will last in your fridge for a log time. But, feel free to use other kinds of sliced meat too (think kielbasa or even cooked meat sliced thinly like roasted pork tenderloin).
You can buy pre-sliced meat but it will dry out quickly. Armed with a sharp knife, you can have some amazing meat for your cheese board!!
5. Bread/Crackers: You should always have a “base” for your cheese! Even though so many people are cutting back on carbs, I find that most people pick up a cracker when starting to build layers of cheese and stuff! Here I used a fresh loaf of olive baguette I bought that day, but if you have a baguette that isn’t perfectly fresh, why not toast up slices and use that instead? I also throw some gluten free crackers on my board to make sure I have options for my gluten free guests (plus I loooove Mary’s crackers!!!)
Step two: Start building your board!
I have a bunch of boards that I use for entertaining (like this one below!) but pick your board based on how many people you are entertaining. This board would be good for 4-6 people.
But, I had 10 people over last weekend so I used a large cutting board (this is actually my fav way of making up an appetizer board!)
If you’re using bread, slice some of it (not all…it gives the board a “story” that invites the guest in to cut more) and place it in the middle.
Now add your meat if you’re using it…separate it from one another.
I also added my veg in the other corner (because cherry tomatoes are slippery little buggers, I tucked a sprig of herbs from the garden to make sure they don’t roll of!)
Now add you cheese evenly around the board.
Now add some of your crackers to fill in some of the spaces (you don’t want to do this too far in advance as the moisture from the cheese might make the crackers soft!)
Now add your fruit in the other spaces (I added cherries, sliced pears and grapes)…remember to cut the grapes into small clusters so your guests don’t have to struggle with pulling clusters apart!
Now add some more greenery to add colour (I went to the garden and picked some fresh oregano, basil and I tucked some chive blossoms in as well – a perennial so it comes back every year without fuss!).
And finally, add some chilled white wine or presecco (a perfect partner with your epic board on a hot summer day!!). This Ruffino Lumino Pinot Grigio is a perfect bottle to share with friends this summer It won’t break the bank (priced nicely under $20!!) and has notes of meadow flowers and pleasant hints of pear. It has a fresh bouquet and has notes of sage and mint. And Ruffino Prosecco also has a fresh bouquet which is fragrant and bursting with fruit notes of apples, pears, and citrus, accompanied by hints of wisteria.
Pretty cool right??
If you’re looking for some more al fresco dining inspiration, check out this post where I share some entertaining tips and some cool DIY tricks for making your guests feel at home!!
*Please enjoy and drink responsibly.
*This post is sponsored by Ruffino Wines and , although all thoughts are my own, I have been monetarily compensated.