‘Tis the season. To be merry. To party hearty. And if you are a foodie, to make a cheese board or two!
Yes, sometimes the holiday season from mid-November to January can feel like one big party. Three holidays = a lot of celebrating! A cheese board is perfect for entertaining at home—or taking to share. And it’s sure to be a hit!
Cheese boards have always been a holiday favorite. Of course, back in the day, serving cheese meant a simple assortment surrounded by crackers. Adding some olives and nuts or a bunch of grapes if you wanted to get fancy.
Today’s cheese boards are a veritable smorgasbord of possibilities—the more the merrier! Besides a wide array to cheeses (consider a homemade smoked whitefish chevre for uniqueness) there are so many choices! What to add? Here are some ideas to get you started!
Charcuterie is the big gun today. Unless you are going vegetarian, a cheese plate isn’t complete without it. Sliced sausage has been a component for ages, but today’s plates may include extras like thin sliced salami, pancetta and prosciutto—the latter is almost a given!
Pickled Vegetables. Small pickles (or cornichons if you speak haute-cheese) were an early entry to the cheese plate arena, but today the ranks of pickled vegetables have expanded. Artichokes and round red mini-peppers are beautiful additions and every fall I make a turmeric-pickled cauliflower to bring some summer into my cheese plates.
Nuts. Other than pistachios, you’ll want your cheese board to include nuts that are already shelled. Walnuts, pecans and almonds are perennial favorites. And for a gourmet touch, consider flavored Marcona almonds from Spain.
Olives are another classic cheese board accoutrement. Stuffed or unstuffed, pitted or not, just don’t skimp on quality. And if it’s for Christmas, consider tossing in some red and green olives for the color.
Fruit serves as a perfect complement to cheese. One option is to serve it up fresh. Berries and grapes are perfect whole or in bunches. Or for larger fruit go with halves or slices, and consider a touch or the exotic, like figs or persimmons. A tasty alternative is dried fruits--figs or apricots are delicious. Finally, for a unique presentation consider dried pears sliced lengthwise or apples cut across. You can even do your own homemade dried fruit.
Preserves like jam or honey can provide a similar taste profile to fruit. Tiny jars can go right on the plate! Consider more exotic honey’s like buckwheat which may bring a more complex flavor profile.
Starchy bites like crackers are a given, but you needn’t stop there. Thin slices of French bread are delicious and easy to get locally for dedicated locavores. Pretzels are another option, and you can’t beat bread sticks for elegance.
Specialty foods can put your cheese board over the top. For a special touch consider treats like stuffed grape leaves or artichoke tapenade.
If that all sounds like a lot, pick and choose. Or pull out a second platter! There’s no rule that you are limited to one.
It’s the holidays, after all—enjoy!
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