I missed everyone last week as I was navigating the Southern California freeways and thru the Orange County fire and smoke, to visit my Dad in the hospital. And wow – what about all the devastation that has happened in Northern California. Hurricanes and floods on one side of the country and fires on the other, with a mass shooting in between (timewise). Oh my – I hope we have some quite for a while. My heart breaks for those who have lost everything and for the lives lost because of the fires.
When entertaining at home we usually try to outdo ourselves! I know that I am guilty of that – even if it is just family coming over. There are some recommendations that I would like to make on how to keep a party or get together simple, starting with hors d’oeuvres.
To keep your hors d’oeuvres simple put together a cheese board including accompaniments . Pick 2-4 good cheeses (or more) depending on how many people you are expecting. I have found that Trader Joe’s always has some fun and unique cheeses – The Unexpected Cheddar Cheese, Caramelized Onion Cheddar Cheese, Blueberry Vanilla Chevre (goat cheese log with blueberries), Cambozola Triple Cream Soft Ripened Blue Cheese, or the Triple Crème Brie. I personally do not like anything in the blue family (Stilton, Blue, Gorgonzola, etc), but my husband and any number of our family and friends love blue cheese. Remember not everyone can eat cheese – it is usually cheese made from cow’s vs cheese made from goats or sheeps. So if you have anyone that cannot eat cheese, they may be able to eat goat cheese. Because of that I always try to have 1 goat cheese available (not to mention I love goat cheese). As you are choosing your cheeses you may want to have one soft cheese, one aged cheese, one hard cheese and one blue cheese.
Next choose some of your favorite cold cut meats. I personally like salami, proscuito, capocolla, pancetta and a little pepperoni to kick it up. You don’t have to choose all or you can keep you hors d’oeuvres meatless. In my family we are meat eaters and enjoy cured meats!.
Crackers and bread – who doesn’t love a great cracker or slices of either a French baguette or a sourdough baguette topped with great cheese and meats. Once again Trader Joe’s has some tasty crackers. Some of my favorites are the Multigrain cracker (kind of an all-purpose cracker that goes with anything), Pita Bite Cracker, Savory Thins, Brioche Toasts and the Pumpkin Cranberry Crisps.
On your cheese tray add some fruit – I personally have come to like champagne grapes – they are so cute and delicate. But little clumps of seedless grapes spread throughout your cheese tray(s) will enhance your offering. I also happen to like strawberries especially if they are in season. Also dried apricots and sliced apples are a nice touch.
No cheese plate is complete without olives and nuts. Almonds work really well with cheese. My personal favorite for olives is a mix of Greek olives – the only problem is there are pits. There are other very nice olives that you can pick up without pits.
I have really come to like and appreciate the adding of a jam. Some options are adding a fig butter, roasted garlic and onion jam, chutneys, sweet preserves, and spicy mustard. You only need 1 or 2!
Pulling it all together! Pre-slice your cheeses and make sure you have one knife for each type of cheese. To cut the softer cheeses use a wire cheese cutter. Cut the other cheeses in the shape of the brick or round. If you are adding meats – roll them and stack them in small stacks or fold them in triangle shapes. If you have a log of salami (like genoa) and have sliced it in small rounds you can plate them accordion style or in “cute” piles . Big tip here – Don’t crowd your presentation. Give each item on your board or board’s room to stand out. I personally like labels for your cheeses, meats and your jam or mustard – then your guests aren’t asking what is this or that! Set you board out 30 minutes before you expect to serve your guests. This allows the cheeses to present their full flavor. And there is nothing wrong with having multiple cheese boards! Most of us don’t have one board large enough any way! Remember – keep it simple!! Happy Planning! What’s your next party?!
“The greatest ideas are the simplest.” William Golding, Lord of the Flies