Monday, June 28, 2010

Fruit and Cheese Platter

One of the Barefoot Bloggers bonus recipes before I joined the group was the Contessa’s cheese platter. I’ve always intended to make this one, though. This “recipe” requires some thought and creativity…it’s not simply a cooking recipe with measurements that must be strictly followed. Rather, this recipe merely offers guidelines, but the rest is up to you!

For my cheese platter, I wanted to have an interesting selection of a variety of flavors, so I chose cheeses made of goat’s milk, sheep’s milk, and cow’s milk. The
Montchevré Camembert La Chevriotte is a mild and creamy soft-ripened goat cheese reminiscent of Brie. Manchego, a firm cheese with a buttery flavor made in the La Mancha region of Spain from the milk of Manchega sheep, is one of my favorites. Lastly, I chose the Rosenborg Castello Extra Creamy Danish Blue Cheese, which is a mild blue cheese with a rich, buttery, and tangy flavor. I served my cheese platter with an assortment of crackers, local honey, fresh grapes, ripe strawberries, and dried apricots.

Cheese Platter, Barefoot Contessa

Assortment of cheeses (hard sharp cheeses, soft creamy cheeses, pungent blue cheeses)
Simple seasonal fresh fruit (bunch of green or red grapes, apricots, pears, strawberries, figs)
Dried fruit and nuts (dates, apricots, roasted cashews)
Sliced breads or crackers

Go to the best cheese shop in town and ask the person at the counter which cheeses are ready to serve. Taste everything; they expect you to. We all know that the Brie may look terrific, but it can be underripe and tough or overripe and ammoniated. You want only the freshest cheeses that are perfectly ripened. Take them home, refrigerate them, and then bring them to room temperature a few hours before serving.

Second, be sure to have a platter or wooden board that is flat and large enough to hold the cheeses without crowding them. Arrange the cheeses with the cut sides facing out, and with several small cheese knives, maybe one for each type of cheese.

Third, to finish the platter, add sliced breads or crackers, and green leaves. I use either lemon or galax leaves, which you can get from your florist. If you have a garden, any large flat leaf like hydrangea looks beautiful, but be sure they aren't poisonous and are pesticide-free!

Overall, the simpler the design, the better the platter looks. Group each kind of cheese together and add one large bunch of green or red grapes in the center to create a visual focal point. Fill in the spaces with lots of crackers or small slices of bread.

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