I never want anyone to walk into my home and feel like anything is off limits that especially goes for food. I want people to jump right in and feel right at home. I thought I would share just how easy it can be to make a fruit and cheese spread look ”extra pretty” if you know just a few basic tricks.
As most of you all already know, Brave Beauty and I hosted a “Super Soul” Share Class/Happy Hour last week. We decided to divide and conquer – my partner in crime took care of the wine and my job was a fruit and cheese spread. I do have to say how very smitten I was by Botabox wine! I had completely forgotten about box wine – it has come a long way and just might be my husband’s new best friend!
I thought I was getting off the hook pretty easily having to just put out fruit and cheese so I was doing the happy dance (there I go dancing again and putting awkward visuals into your head again, my bad). I did feel a little guilty the night before so I decided to whip up some mini-versions of my Lemon Thyme Crackers, thinking they would go perfectly with one of my “secret weapons” of appetizers.
The recipe I’m about to share with you is one of those recipes that is super nostalgic for me as it was one of the very first things we served when we hosted our very first “gourmet club” dinner at our old house, probably close to a decade ago. I was a nervous wreck back then when it came to hosting and wanted everything to be just so. I remember it was also a time where I could dream up the best of schemes so my vision for hosting that night was an “indoor picnic”. We set up a table just a few feet off the floor with throw pillows all around and strung lights with a pretty flowered tablecloth floating down the center. It was so pretty at least the version I have in my head. In reality, it was a piece of old particle board that we had out in the garage that we rested on long narrow boxes with a table cloth thrown over it. Funny enough, I found the invitation (and one poorly lit picture) from that night, it read, “Since our house is a bit tight, we’ve chosen a unique site. Let’s have a picnic inside to celebrate Gourmet night! There will be a main dish and many spirits to guzzle, to find out what you should bring, solve the enclosed puzzle!” I can’t even believe I sent a puzzle – who does that? I was so adventurous and creative back then. Oh the memories! I remember it like it was yesterday ‘cause it was such a happy, fun and inspiring time in my life. I loved that group – some of the best people I still know today but sadly all have moved away. = (
I remember serving Martha Stewart’s brick pressed sandwiches with all these gourmet meats and cheeses; and from there on out, I was sold and hooked to the whole dinner party idea after successfully getting a bunch of couples to eat literally just a few inches off the floor while sitting criss-cross apple sauce for a couple of hours! Not one of my brightest ideas but it stills brings back a lot of great memories!
Life, of course, took over and the bar got set lower and lower each and every time I hosted a dinner party from there on out. Time, 3 kids in diapers and life got in the way and the “pretentiousness of making it all pretty” got pushed to the wayside and getting people together became much more important.
So the recipe I wanted to tell you about and share is one that I served on that very first gourmet club dinner as an appetizer. It is a perfect go to recipe and is guaranteed to be a “lick the plate clean” kind of dish. The particular cheese you use in this dish is a bit “foo-foo” and more of a “special occasion” type of cheese since it tends to be on the pricier side but what a treat it is! The only place I have ever been consistently been able to find it is at Whole Foods so don’t try and find it at your local Walmart or Target, it’s not happening folks. I’ll save you the trouble of driving from store to store to store (you can only imagine now my huff and puff walking out of every supermarket in Colorado Springs empty-handed until euphoria set in finding it at Whole Foods). This “rare” cheese is called “Robiola”, an Italian soft-ripened cheese from the Langhe region of northern Italy.
All you do is soak the bottom half of the Robiolo in a cup of Aged Balsamic Vinegar (I use Aceto Balsamic Tradizionale di Modena from Trader Joe’s). Let it soak for a minimum of 2 hours and then drizzle the top of it with 2-3 Tbsp. of Lavender Honey. If you can’t find lavender honey, you can also substitute Orange Blossom or any other Wild Flower Honey but Lavender Honey really does give it a truly unique and divine flavor. Sprinkle with Fresh Thyme Leaves and then pile 5-6 thinly sliced sundried tomatoes into the center of the cheese. Serve with sliced pears, crackers or slices of a baguette. Maybe, it helps to start with wine and that is what makes it so great but I promise this is so shockingly yummy! The longer your soak the cheese, the better. Try it for the holidays and let me know what you think!
Okay so back to the set up of a fruit and cheese spread. It really is super easy. The true trick is in the layering and then spreading out the fruit evenly for even pops of color. Also it helps to know your color wheel folks – did I really just say that out loud, I really did! Try to think about coordinating colors and what is opposite on the color wheel (orange and blue; green and red) when picking out your fruit colors. I know who does that! I’m a visual learner what can I say!
Here is how it is done:
- I use the food friendly “cedar wood planks” from Costco and line them down the center of the table as the base. The planks usually accompany cuts of salmon so you will find them in the seafood section. Instead of using them for the salmon, I have saved the planks for serving food. You can use one of them or all 6 of them, depending on the size of your table. You can also use wood cutting boards as well if you don’t want to bother with the planks.
- Then, place lettuce leaves or any other type of leafy greens down on top of the wood planks with the base of each leaf facing the center. Believe it or not, this single trick will add some “pow” to any type of spread you put out!
- Next place large blocks of cheese evenly down the wood. My standby cheeses for a party are: gouda, gruyere and brie along with a sharp cheddar but really just go with your favorites and what you know “you like”.
- After that, evenly line small bunches of grapes and clementines down the planks (see how the fruit colors are opposite on the color wheel = ) ).
- Evenly distribute the rest of the fruit (raspberries, blackberries, green grapes, strawberries and chunks of cheese down the spread). Add in bite size pieces of good quality chocolate and some crackers and you can call it a day. (blackberries and cheddar cheese/carrots are color opposites, raspberries/strawberries/cherry tomatoes are opposite of green grapes…see now you are a pro at color coordinating! I can’t dress myself to save my life but give me food and I’ll show you art!)
- You may also want to put out some small bowls of nuts or chocolate covered anything for a quick bite (cashews and pistachios are always a crowd pleaser).
- Quickly took some pics with my phone before all the gals showed up so unfortunately the pics aren’t the best quality but they give you an idea of what it all looks like in case you want to give it a try yourself. See, there really is nothing magical about it except taking the time to put it together as an expression of love for those walking into your home
Hope you enjoyed this tip. As always, you can find more at Sharing Our Life, Love and Food.