Afternoon Cheese Plate

A cheese plate is one of my simplest culinary pleasures. I always make sure to have several hard cheeses & at least one soft cheese on hand for those lazy afternoons where cooking is just too hot. Or annoying. Or time-consuming.

There are infinite varieties on cheese plates, and many are more elegant than mine – charcuterie, anyone? – but when I get the afternoon munchies, I get my:

cheeses I’m not a cheese snob, nor even an aficionado. I like to try new cheeses, and will grab anything that looks interesting at Ralph’s, Gelson’s, Trader Joe’s or Whole Foods. Parmigiano Reggiano is the backbone of my cheeseplate 99% of the time. It’s just so versatile and pleasing, complements basically everything. Dutch Rembrandt is another favorite, it’s an aged gouda. I tend to like the Beecher’s Flagship Cheddar, but the cheddars don’t generally mesh well with too many other ingredients (below). Emmentaler Swiss is another crowd-pleaser, but delve into whatever you like.

crackers the more variants, the better – but I like them with a firm crunch; Croccantini are classic cracker buddies.  even Wheat Thins work in a pinch

herbs an oft-overlooked aspect of a robust cheese plate, herbs provide both a flavor & aesthetic pop. basil is the most all-encompassing herb and Italian parsley has a natural flavor affinity to most of the hard cheeses, but cilantro is pretty versatile as well. I’ve used Mexican mint or sage, but both are limited in the scope of flavors they can partner with.

peppers peppers actually begat the genesis of the cheese plate at Magnolia Gardens. jalapeños, serranos, habaneros are all perfect; I prefer to have all three, in fact, so you get the classic ‘stoplight’ flavor string of red, orange/yellow & green. adds a perfect punch and a nice crispness to the bite of cheese/cracker/herb &

honey credit goes to my wife on this one, as she loves to dip the crackers (specifically Croccantini) in the honey prior to adding the cheese, herb and pepper. the sweetness of the honey comforts the spice of the pepper as well, so it serves an additional purpose in that regard.

fruit grapes cleanse the palate perfectly, and actually work with most of the nutty cheeses. apples add a great crispness and can be a sweet or tart addition, and pears accentuate the cheese with a sweet succulence. berries can be added as well for a sparkle of color and a juicy addendum between bites of salty, nutty crunch.

nuts not pictured below, slivered almonds or diced pecans pair well with the honey and nearly all cheeses.

cheese

So whatever your iteration, a cheese plate should be a consistent inclusion in your snack rotation.

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