Regular Food in Jars contributor Alex Jones is here to share her tips for building a cheeseboard for the summer season! Looks delicious! – Marisa
It’s ironic that the farmers’ markets are bursting with the widest variety of ingredients during the season that it’s often — in my apartment, anyway — too hot to cook.
But there are still delicious meals to be made in the head of summer. In July and August, I find myself gravitating to salads made with greens, soft-boiled eggs, and other easy-to-prep veggies, or grilled cheese sandwiches made with thick slabs of tomato and basil leaves stuffed inside.
Of course, there’s always the grill — but struggling to get the coals lit while fighting off mosquitoes and (still) sweating make outdoor cooking a special occasion thing for me.
How else to pull together a quick and delicious meal with minimal cooking that’s adaptable to the season’s bounty? Build a beautiful, easy, no-cook cheese board.
And when I say a cheese board fixes up quick, I mean it: grab a few tasty hunks on your next trip supermarket, specialty grocer, or farmer’s market, and that’s the bulk of the work.
When you’re selecting cheeses to serve together, I recommend choosing two or three contrasting styles: fresh, soft-ripened (also known as bloomy rinds, this class includes cheeses like Brie and Valençay), washed rind, aged. Mix up sheep, cow, and goat’s milk wedges if you like. This will give you a good mix of flavors and textures as well as beautiful visual contrast. And if you’re a meat eater, cured meats like prosciutto or sopressata make a great addition.
Pick up some seasonal produce, too: blueberries and cherries, dark, glossy blackberries, melons — whatever looks good that week. I like to get some green on the board, too. Think crisp snap peas, cucumbers, carrots, string beans, or even a little haystack of microgreens or sunflower shoots.
Consider your pantry inventory; it’s nice to have a stash of shelf-stable goodies like nuts, dried fruit, honey, and crackers to play with. And I’m sure you have a jar or two of jam or pickles you’re dying to use; preserves and good cheese go hand in hand.
As a meal with a good number of tasty accessories on the board, budget three ounces of cheese per person. If the board will be a starter course with more food to come, plan for about half that amount.
Get your goodies home, and be sure to leave the cheese out for 45 minutes or so to come to room temperature before serving (if it isn’t already when you buy it). Wash and dry your produce, cut the veggies if needed, and then select your surface.
If you’ve got a dedicated cheese board, bust it out — otherwise, a nice big cutting board, serving platter, or even a baking sheet lined with parchment or kraft paper will work. Now, arrange your cheeses. You can be as utilitarian or Instagram-ready as you like here.
On this board, I served up half of my cheese share from Collective Creamery, the cheese subscription I run with the cheesemakers at Valley Milkhouse and Birchrun Hills Farm. We curate the cheeses in each share to contrast nicely on a board just like this.
I added sweet cherries from the farmers’ market, which go beautifully with Honey Bell, our chamomile-topped lactic bloomy rind with the texture of buttercream. Green beans from my Taproot Farm CSA share add crunch and color. And a big dollop of puckery rhubarb jam complements Valley Milkhouse’s creamy, roasty-toasty Blue Bell. Homemade garlic dills, which I love with a hard-aged Alpine style cheese like Birchrun’s Equinox, a handful of sprouted almonds, and some crackers finished the spread.
Not counting my fussing for photography purposes, this board took less than 10 minutes to put together. Add a bottle of sparkling rosé, a dry Riesling, fizzy kombucha, or your favorite gose, kolsch, or pilsner to sip on and refresh between bites.
And there you have it: a well-balanced meal for four, requiring almost no prep — and not a stovetop, oven, or grill in sight.
What would your suggestion be for those of us who have friends/family with nut allergies? Should I just leave off that component and have the cracker take the place of the other crunchy component or add something else? I would love your input!
You could substitute sunflower seeds or perhaps some beans.
Be careful when buying crackers that they don’t have any nuts in them.
Great question! Seeds that work for the person with the allergy, nut-free crackers, soy nuts, etc all add some crunch. You can also include more crisp veggies like carrots, celery, radish slices, hakurei/salad turnips, etc.
That looks like dinner for me!