I’m a huge fan of appetizers, tapas, small plates… basically anything you can share. There is something satisfying and social about ordering ‘family style’ and taking little tastes of each cheese or meat plate. Talking about the food in front of you actually requires you to stop and TASTE it, rather than shoveling it in to your mouth as quickly as possible because you’re distracted by the TV, or the dog, or the other chaos going on in your house during dinner time. I love cheese boards. Growing up when we would visit my grandmother in France, they would bring out a cheese cart full of the most divine stinky blue cheeses, creamy goat cheese, mild brie, you’d have 25 different options- the smell was overwhelming. Then you add the meats, Prosciutto, Soppressata, Salami and my favorite… Tartufo Truffle Salami! Served with a crispy baguette, some French stone ground mustard and Blood Orange Pepper jelly…I’m drooling on my keyboard. Check out the jelly aisle in your grocery store or Whole Foods, they usually have some interesting compotes and jellies that go nicely with cheese- fig preserves, jalapeno jellies or even honey work well! From left to right here are the cheeses we sampled with our meat board. Far left is the Cypress Grove Humboldt Fog Chevre which is a mild goats milk cheese. The thin layer of edible vegetable ash give this cheese a subtle tangy flavor which goes nicely with pepper jelly. The Second cheese from the left is a Valdeon Blue Cheese which is strong flavored cow and goats milk blue cheese that is a bit stronger than Stilton. Valdeon is wrapped Sycamore leaves which gives it a rich and complex flavor. If you’re not a huge fan of stinky blue cheese this might not be the best blue to start with. The third cheese is the Fromager d’Affinois which is a rich and creamy cows milk cheese. d’Affinois is a double-cream cheese and positions its self between a traditional brie and a triple-cream like Saint Andre (not picture here but another amazing cheese… I can already see another cheese board post in the works..) d’Affinois goes great with honey or any fruit/pepper jelly. The last cheese farthest to the right is creamy Gorgonzola which is a blue cheese made from cows milk. This cheese is more mild than the Valdeon and is good ‘gateway’ blue cheese. Try both the Valdeon and Gorgonzola with out any jellies or honey to start, their rich flavor can be overwhelming at first with too many additions. You should be able to find most of these cheese in your local grocery store and will have not problem find them at Whole Foods or specialty food shops.
Next in the Appy Hour… Smoked salmon and Boursin cheese on cucumber rounds. This is a really easy, light summer appetizer (Gluten Free too!) and its a huge crowd pleaser. All you need is-
- One English cucumber
- One 5.2oz box of Boursin Garlic & Herb cheese
- Small package of smoked salmon or lox
Slice the cucumber into bite-size rounds, between 1/8″-1/4″. Spread Boursin cheese onto cucumber rounds and top with a few small pieces of smoked salmon. Squeeze a few lemon wedges over the salmon and serve! Don’t forget to make extras, they’ll be gone in a flash. Enjoy!