I love fancy appetizers. I think they are so fun and they’re always so tasty but when it comes to hosting a dinner, I always look for something really easy to make instead. I don’t want to spend all day preparing food or miss the party because I’m in the kitchen. Instead, I prefer to make “faux fancy” things, ie appetizers that seem fancy but in reality only take a few minutes to throw together. My go-to easy appetizer? A fun cheese plate.
It may be a little cliche, but I love cheese plates. Cheese is one of my favorite foods and as much as I love eating it on its own, I really love how easy it is to make it a more elevated snack by adding some toppings and accoutrements. And a good cheese plate is a great addition to a party- it gets people talking and makes them more relaxed. It’s not a fussy appetizer, so I think it works for even casual parties and barbecues.
I always start with my cheese plate “backdrop.” You can always throw everything on a big cutting board and call it a day but I like decorating my cheese plates a bit more. I also have a lot of cute serving dishes that I don’t get to use very often so I’ll take every chance I can get! For this cheese plate, I started with a marble pastry board to set everything on. Then I added a wooden cutting board to hold the cheese and a small slate board for the bread. Glass bowls held fresh fruit and dipping sauces.
I love experimenting with different cheeses. I’ve found it’s best to have at least two kinds of cheese, although sometimes I’ll use as many as four. It’s always nice to have at least one hard and one soft cheese to give the cheese plate a little variety.
For this cheese plate, I did something a little different and tried two different varieties of the same cheese. I stuck with Asiago PDO and used a fresh Asiago and an aged Asiago. Asiago PDO is from northern Italy and what I really liked about it was the “PDO” designation. The PDO symbol is a guarantee that these products, and all the raw materials that made them, come from Italy and they adhere to high-quality production standards that have been in place for hundreds of years. It’s really nice knowing exactly where my food came from and that so much effort was put into making a high-end product.
I think fruit complements cheese really well and I also love a little bit of a sweet flavor with cheese. My cheese plate included fresh blueberries, blackberries, and honeycomb from my local farmer’s market. For a more savory flavor, I added an herbed butter dipping sauce and served it all with slices of a sourdough baguette, fresh from the oven.
I loved trying both the fresh (fresco) Asiago PDO and the aged (stagionato) Asiago PDO. It was surprising to see how the aging process really changes the flavor. Both varieties are made with cow’s milk and since they have the PDO symbol, they were made in the alpine mountains of northern Italy, but they had really different flavors. The fresco Asiago PDO was a soft cheese that had a nice mild flavor. It was very smooth and would be great on sandwiches or alone as a snack. The stagionato Asiago PDO was a hard cheese with a much stronger flavor. I think it would be really good freshly grated and served over pasta or soup. It was really fun trying the two varieties and it helped me learn a lot about the cheese process and how it affects the flavor.
And there you have it! A super easy appetizer that looks like it took a lot more time than it did and tastes even better than it looks! The best thing about cheese plates (other than the taste) is how easy it is to switch out toppings and flavors and create something new each time. I always have so much fun serving cheese plates and I love how they give me time to join the party!
What’s your favorite appetizer to make?
Thanks to Uncommon Flavors of Europe for providing samples for this post.