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If you build it (a cheese board), they will come (eat it)
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If you build it (a cheese board), they will come (eat it)

Build your own vegetable, cheese or charcuterie board for easy entertaining

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Halloween is around the corner. And not far behind that, the holiday season will bring more guests to our homes.

While our guest lists may include the usual lineup of co-workers, friends and family, there may be the unexpected few who come over unannounced. Be prepared with a few staples in your fridge and pantry and you’ll avoid being a host without something to serve.

Vegetable platters, cheese and charcuterie boards were made for entertaining guests no matter what size or age. Set out some cocktail napkins, a variety of toothpicks and let your guests serve themselves.

And boards are perfect for guests with different lifestyle demands. You can probably get away with putting out one platter to please each of the palates — vegans, vegetarians, herbivores and omnivores alike.

Stock your fridge with whole vegetables or the pre-cut variety that can be opened and spread on a platter or cutting board in no time for an easy presentation. Don’t forget a few dressings to serve, too. Ranch is a solid go-to option but also a green goddess dressing and blue cheese work well.

Finger foods from your favorite grocery store salad bar work in a pinch, and don’t forget about cured meats, like hams or salami, that can be sliced or cubed for an easy bet.

As British cookbook author Gizzi Erskine writes in her latest book, “Gizzi’s Season’s Eatings,” the holiday season between October and New Year’s are “invaluable opportunities to come together.” Her book features dishes fit for any meal and occasion.

To build the perfect cheese offering, she writes that there are no rules: “We’re all different. Have fun. Explore. Experiment. Discover.”

Erskine tells hosts to choose popular cheeses and combine them with uncommon or unfamiliar options while also hitting four basic groups: soft, medium, hard and blue. This makes it easy to mix tastes and textures.

As for sides, she prefers to pair cheeses with breads and crackers, nodding to a good sourdough baguette and even fruit and nut breads. Fruit, vegetables and nuts have their places in any spread, including fresh grapes and figs, slices of pears and apples. Pickled fruits and even chutneys and jams will round out a good board.

Charcuterie boards, Erskine writes, “are meant to be simple, as there is no cooking involved.” She prefers to build her spread with cured and cooked meats. Patés, terrines and rillettes are also usual suspects on her spreads because they offer a different texture for guests and pair wonderfully with crostini and crackers.

But remember, there are no rules when it comes to cheese boards, so serve what you like.

PROSCIUTTO E MELONE (ITALIAN HAM AND MELON)

Makes 4 servings

1 cantaloupe — seeded and cut into 8 wedges

8 thin slices prosciutto

1. Remove the flesh from the rind of the cantaloupe; wrap each piece of cantaloupe with a slice of the ham. Serve cold.

— Recipe from allrecipes.com

BACON WRAPPED DATES

Makes 35-40 dates

35 to 40 pitted dates

70 to 80 salted roasted almonds

2 pounds thin bacon, cut in half

1. Stuff each date with 1 to 2 almonds. Wrap each date with half a piece of bacon and secure with a toothpick.

2. Bake, turning the dates halfway through so the bacon is evenly cooked, 15 to 18 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature.

— Recipe by Ree Drummond from foodnetwork.com

HERBED CHEESE SPREAD

Makes 4-6 servings

4 tablespoons butter, at room temperature

4 tablespoons sour cream

16 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature

2 garlic cloves, minced

1 tablespoon basil, chopped

2 tablespoon chives, chopped

1 to 2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley leaves

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

1. In a bowl add butter, sour cream, and cream cheese. Add the garlic and herbs and mix together well. Season, to taste, with salt and pepper. Place in refrigerator and allow to chill.

— Recipe by Patrick and Gina Neely from foodnetwork.com

CHICKEN LIVER PÂTÉ WITH BRÛLÉED PEAR AND PARSLEY SALAD

Makes 15 to 20 crostini

2 tablespoons grapeseed oil

½ pound chicken livers, cleaned

4 marinated white anchovies

2 tablespoons chicken stock

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 baguette

¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for brushing

2 garlic cloves

1 Anjou pear, cored and thinly sliced

2 tablespoons sugar

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

1 cup fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves

Flaky sea salt

1. In a large sauté pan, heat the grapeseed oil over high heat. Add the chicken livers and anchovies and cook, stirring, until evenly browned, 4 to 5 minutes. Transfer to a food processor. Pour in the stock and process until smooth. Season with kosher salt and pepper.

2. Preheat the oven to 375°F.

3. Slice the baguette on a slight angle and brush each piece with olive oil. Arrange the slices in a single layer on a baking sheet. Toast in the oven until golden brown and crisp, about 10 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven and immediately rub the garlic on each piece of toast.

4. Spread the pear slices out on the same baking sheet. Sprinkle lightly with the sugar. Using a kitchen torch, torch each pear slice until caramelized. While still warm, season with kosher salt.

5. In a medium bowl, whisk together the olive oil and the lemon juice. Add the parsley and toss to coat. Season with flaky sea salt.

6. To assemble the crostini, spread about 1 tablespoon of chicken liver pâté across each piece of toast. Top with a caramelized pear slice and a few leaves of parsley salad. Serve.

— Recipe reprinted from MasterChef Junior Cookbook. Copyright © 2017 by Shine Television, LLC. Published by Clarkson Potter/Publishers, an imprint of Penguin Random House, LLC.

CROSTINI WITH SHRIMP, ROASTED RED PEPPER, and PINE NUT PURÉE

Makes 4 to 6 servings

1 loaf olive bread, sliced

Extra-virgin olive oil

Kosher salt

2 garlic cloves

Freshly ground black pepper

6 large shrimp, peeled, deveined, and sliced in half lengthwise

½ cup roasted red peppers

2 tablespoons kalamata olives, pitted

1 cup toasted pine nuts, plus 2 tablespoons for garnish (see Tip, opposite)

¾ cup mixed color cherry tomatoes, halved

Zest and juice of 2 lemons

¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

2 tablespoons micro basil, for garnish

1. Preheat the oven to 350°F.

2. Brush the bread slices with olive oil and sprinkle with salt. Place the bread on a baking sheet and toast in the oven until golden brown and crisp, 10 minutes. As soon as you remove the baking sheet from the oven, rub the garlic cloves across the toast.

3. Season the shrimp with salt and black pepper. In a large pan, heat 2 tablespoons olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the shrimp and cook until pink, about 2 minutes.

4. In a food processor or blender, combine the roasted red peppers, olives, and 2 tablespoons olive oil and purée until smooth. Transfer to a bowl and season with salt and black pepper.

5. In the food processor, purée 1 cup of pine nuts and 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Transfer to a bowl and season with salt and pepper.

6. In a medium bowl, toss the tomatoes with the lemon zest, lemon juice, red pepper flakes, 2 teaspoons olive oil, and a pinch each of salt and black pepper.

7. To assemble the crostini, place a few pieces of toast on each plate. Spoon some of the roasted red pepper purée and the pine nut purée over the toast. Top with the shrimp and tomatoes. Serve garnished with the micro basil and whole pine nuts.

— Recipe reprinted from MasterChef Junior Cookbook. Copyright © 2017 by Shine Television, LLC. Published by Clarkson Potter/Publishers, an imprint of Penguin Random House, LLC.

Jessica Rodrigo 918-581-8482

jessica.rodrigo@tulsaworld.com

Twitter: @EatsEatsEats

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