Beautiful cheese boards with their abundance of food items, color and textures are visual feasts. You just want to dive in and taste as many flavors as possible. Such cheese boards are very large and, sadly, relegated only to be enjoyed by a large group of people for special occasions.
I make cheese and meat boards for guests or when I need something to take to a party. But I also make them when I don't feel like cooking and just want to relax and munch. Sometimes I make a cheese board when I want to make myself feel special. The making of a small cheese and meat board is easier than you may think. The key is to simply reduce quantity and be more selective.
Keep in mind some simple guides for flavor and balance; textures, colors and shapes. Pull out a lovely board, a platter or plate. Check the fridg and pantry shelf, then pile on the flavors.
Brunch Cheese Board #1
The world can sometimes feel like a maddening place to live in! Having a leisurely late breakfast in the peace and quiet of a cozy space is one way to recharge your life batteries.
Here are two of my favorite brunch cheese boards. Cheeses and sliced meats are often in my fridge and condiments in the pantry. That makes it easy for me to grab a lovely wood-block cutting board, gather and arrange the food items in an attractive, inviting way.
Rosemary ham. Sliced French bread. Goat Cheese. Stilton blue cheese.
Soft boiled eggs with whole grain Dijon mustard.
Figs. Sliced red pears. Tomato-dried butter. Walnuts. Strawberry jam.
Brunch Cheese Board #2
Smoked salmon. lemon wedges. Mangoes. Anjou pears. Toasted bagels.
Cream cheese. Wheat crackers. Goat cheese. Strawberry jam.
About Flavor And Balance
Taste buds respond to sweetness, saltiness, sourness, and bitterness. Sweetness satiates the appetite, saltiness excites it. Sourness is perceive as a brightness in the flavor. According to some chefs sourness "cleanses" the taste buds.
Balancing these flavors has given us age-old classic meals, as well as new ones. The basic or rather the start for creating balanced flavors is to pair opposites: sweetness with bitterness; sourness with satiness. (Learn more about building and matching flavors in The Flavor Bible)
Note, I don't consider this a hard and fast rule limited to just this combination of pairing. For example, pairing sweetness with saltiness creates an interesting flavor.
Theme or Holiday Cheese Boards
Make a theme or holiday cheese board by adding a theme centerpiece, preferably a small one. Here, just a small vase filled with coffee beans holds beautiful golden yellow, red and green leaves from a northern red oak. And yes, they are real leaves that were dipped in wax to preserve their colors.
Red grapes. Smoked oysters. Gruyere cheese. Smoked gouda cheese.
Wheat crackers. Rolled meats of sopressata, capocollo and genoa salame
From my post on Witch's Brew Martini, I added an inexpensive skull head. It's actually a tea candle holder. But by lining it with a clear wrap, I was able to use it as a container for almond nuts.
Walnuts. Almonds. Blue cheese. Seasoned black olives. Wheat crackers.
Sliced anjou pears. Gorgonzola cheese roll with genoa salami
Dessert Cheese Board
Technically, you could argue that this is not exactly a dessert cheese board. My first home cooked dinner in France ended with cheese and wine at the end of the meal. It was refreshing to both my palate and appetite. I apologize for not remembering the cheeses. Still, the following options work just as well.
As stated by Nora Singley on theKitchn.com, "Eating [cheese] before dinner can sometimes kill your appetite. Eating it afterwards is a better time to appreciate it in smaller, more mindful portions." (Remember, saltiness in cheeses does stimulate the appetite.)
Strawberry preserve stuffed baked French brie. Ginger Sugar Walnuts.
Buttery crackers. Sliced anjou pears.
Try this! It is not super sweet but sweet enough to keep you reaching for just one more. Whenever I eat it, I think of Cracker Jack popcorn and ginger finally finding each other.
Ginger Sugar Walnuts
Easy to make: 1 cup of whole walnuts, 1/4 cup white sugar, and 1 tsp ground ginger.
Add all ingredients to a heavy bottom skillet on medium high heat. Stir, stir and stir until sugar has melted (about 5-10 minutes). Be careful not to burn. Spread out walnuts on parchment paper to cool.
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