Over the past couple years, I have seen cheese platters becoming more and more popular. I’ve seen them on cooking shows and in grocery store ads. They look very impressive and fancy, but they are actually quite easy to put together. Here’s a simple approach to putting together a cheese platter.
The Cheese – Pick three to four different cheeses to display and figure about one to two ounces per person. Choose a variety of textures and flavors. It’s pretty overwhelming walking up to a cheese counter. There’s tons of different cheeses and you don’t know where to start. My suggestion – start by asking the cheesemonger for help!
When Aaron and I were Portland we bought a baguette from a local bakery and wanted some nice cheese to go with it for a European-esque picnic lunch. We went to this specialty grocery shop we found and the cheesemonger asked us what kind of cheeses we liked and how adventurous we were with flavors and types of cheese. She had us sample some of her suggestions and we found some great cheese. It would’ve been hard to pick out something we liked without asking for help, so I definitely suggest doing so.
People who work with cheese love to talk about it and help you find what you like. They can even suggest food and wine pairings to help you build your cheese platter.
The Meats – I enjoy adding some cured meats to my cheese platter. It adds savory-ness and is a classic pairing for cheese. You can choose from thinly sliced cured meats or sliced cured sausages or hot varietals. Some popular choices would be prosciutto, capocollo, and salami.
The Bread – Who doesn’t love bread? It’s so comforting and a freshly made loaf just feels like home. A classic option would be a French baguette that goes with anything and everything. Or you could slice it, coat it in olive oil and bake until crispy to make crostini. Or if you want a thinner crusted bread with a nice chew, try ciabatta. Something a little denser and tangy, a sourdough would work great. In addition to bread, I like putting out crackers as well. It’s a nice change in texture and flavor.
The Extras – This is the part when you can use your imagination and add little bites of sweet, nutty, and briny to your cheese platter. Many grocery store have olive bars now that host a number of different types of olives, pickles, and marinated vegetables. Maybe ask what would pair well or if you can try a sample of something. I also like adding seasoned nuts to the platter. Feel free to buy something that’s already seasoned or try your hand at it at home. It’s easier than you might think. Finally, think fruits. Add a fruit that will offer sweetness and freshness to your platter, like apples or grapes. When choosing the extras, it helps me to think of classic cheese and fruit or nut combos I’ve seen or eaten before. Gorgonzola and pear, brie and cranberry, apple and cheddar, blue cheese and walnut.
The Wine – Not sure a cheese platter is complete without the wine! I’m not much of a sommelier and I don’t usually buy a wine more than $5 a bottle, but I can suggest you get what you like. I feel like that’s always the advice I hear. My trick – I like to look at the back label to see what the wine maker suggests pairing the wine with. If you are more into beer, I did recently read something that suggested pairing beer with cheese, so go for it!
I put this cheese platter together with cheeses and meats I found at my local grocery store. During the holiday season stores bring in more specialty cheeses and meats. I’m all about going fancy on a budget. No need to spend tons to have a tasty cheese platter.
My Cheese Platter
Buttery, whole wheat crackers
Gala Apple slices
Harissa Roasted Almonds
Petite Syrah by Bogle (I’ve loved every bottle of Bogle wine I’ve bought. A great wine for under $10!)
Arrange your items on a large wooden cutting board, platter, or serving tray. Gather your friends and family and enjoy munching and tasting. A nice and fancy treat for the holiday season!
Harissa Roasted Almonds – Makes 1 cup, Cook Time – 25 minutes
1 cup Unsalted, Raw, Whole Almonds
2 tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil
2 teaspoons Harissa Seasoning (paprika, caraway, chili pepper, cayenne pepper, coriander, cumin, garlic, peppermint)
Salt & Pepper
Preheat the oven to 350. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
In a mixing bowl, toss the almonds with olive oil until coated. Season with salt, pepper, and harissa seasoning to taste.
Spread the almonds in a single layer on the baking sheet and bake for 10-15 minutes. Let cool and add to your cheese platter!