OK, I LOVE cheese! and one of my favorite things to serve up for friends and family is a beautiful cheese tray or cheese board. Around the holidays, a few bottles of different wines with a great plate of cheeses is an easy, elegant way to entertain. My favorite “cheese wine” is Champagne, which, thanks to its high acidity and palate-cleansing bubbles, is tremendously versatile. As for the cheese plate itself, here are a few tips.
It’s about quality, not quantity. Your cheese plate should have 3 to 5 excellent cheeses, not 15 mediocre ones.
Choose a variety of cheese styles, from creamy soft to hard, or different milk types — goat, sheep, and cow’s milk. Soft cheeses include brie, camembert, fresh mozzarella, fresh goat. Medium density cheeses include cheddar, Swiss, bleu, manchego, gouda (aged is fantastic!), feta…. Hard cheeses are parmesan, Romano.
Remove cheese from the refrigerator 30 minutes to an hour before serving so it can come to room temperature.
Drizzle a little honey on pungent cheeses for a dash of sweetness. Truffle honey adds another depth of decadence!
Include: small bowls of marinated mushrooms, olives, cornichons, caviar, dried cranberries and apricots, candied nuts, quince paste, rainbow carrots, tiny tomatoes, cucumbers, assorted breads and crackers.
Garnish with bunches of fresh herbs and pomegranate halves, figs, strawberries, apples, grapes….
Want more ideas for cheese? How about a make-ahead cheese ball? And, it can also be a great gift! Double wrap, tie the end with a bow, and dazzle your host or hostess with a home-made goody!
Yes, I do love my cheese! During the busy holidays, when guests tend to drop in, I like to have a little something that I can put out at a moment’s notice, and so I make up a cheese ball to keep in my fridge, just for this! You can make one large ball, two or three smaller ones, mold the mixture into a cheese log, or press the cheese into a ramekin and serve it directly from there. The log is a really great choice, as you can cut off a section, serve it, and leave the rest intact for another day! If there is any of your cheese ball or log remaining after you serve guests, just press it into a ramekin, and top it with a garnish…Viola! repurposed snack!
The two items pictured here are a cheese ball with made with Parmesan, salt pepper and Frank’s Red Hot sauce, then coated in fresh chopped rosemary and pink peppercorns, and a cheese log made with Stilton, black pepper, coated in walnuts. I like to serve the Stilton with apples — it’s a really nice pair!
To create a cheese log, which can be cut into smaller portions for serving at different times, combine your ingredients, then scoop the mixture onto a sheet of parchment paper. Fold the paper over the mixture, and using the back of a large knife or an icing spatula, mold the cheese into a log by pressing the blade into the bottom of the mixture and pulling on the bottom sheet of paper. when your log is formed, roll it into he rest of the paper and chill, then roll in your choice of coating. See photos below the recipe for examples of preparation and forming the cheese into a ball or a log.
Cheese Ball Master Recipe
½ cup grated or crumbled cheese
8 ounces cream cheese (softened)
Optional flavoring agents:
1 to 2 teaspoons fresh chopped herbs
chopped dried fruit (1 to 3 tablespoons)
freshly grated zest (½ to 1 teaspoon)
Frank’s Red Hot Sauce (to taste)
Worcestershire sauce (½ to 2 teaspoons)
salt and pepper (to taste)
chopped nuts or herbs (for outside)
crackers or crostini (for serving)
In a food processor or mixer, combine cheeses. Fold in flavoring agents of choice, the season with salt and pepper. Scoop the mixture into the center of a plastic wrap square. Pull up the corners and twist the wrap to mold the mixture into a ball. Chill at least one hour.
Before serving, roll cheese ball in chopped nuts or finely snipped herbs.
Store wrapped refrigerated, in plastic wrap, up to 3 weeks
Turkey leftovers! I need my refrigerator space back. In the past, I have made turkey enchiladas, hot turkey sandwiches, turkey soup. You know the drill. Well, I have to admit, I tire of this fairly quickly. I want something different, but easy.
A quick inventory of my fridge turned up — turkey, imagine that! Also, some leftover gravy and dressing, and some mashed potatoes. So, I rummaged from the crisper an onion, a carrot and a couple of stalks of celery. I have some frozen peas. Hah! let’s get started.
First, I sautéed the thinly sliced carrot and celery with the chopped onion, in a little butter, with a dash of salt. When the veggies were softened but not browned, I added the gravy. Hmm, a bit thick, so I thinned it with a bit of canned chicken stock. A little white wine would work well here too. Stirred in the chopped turkey, the peas and checked the seasoning. My work here is almost done. Spooned the mixture into large ramekins and topped some with scoops of dressing and some with scoops of mashed potatoes. Into a preheated 350°F oven, and I now have turkey shepherd’s pie! Should I call this turkey flocker’s pie, since technically we don’t herd turkeys?
All of the information, techniques and recipes you need to prepare a successful, delicious meal! Please feel free to use these links as a resource in your holiday meal preparation, and enjoy the fruits of your labor with friends and family surrounding you on this day. Here’s to you!
When the weather turns cool, I like hot, spicy food, comfort food, deliciousness! So, this evening, I opted for all of the above, and made a family favorite, Thai Red Coconut Curry Halibut. The balanced flavors of sweet, sour, salty, and hot are traditional in Thai food. You may choose to make your curry with a little less heat, which means less curry paste, or you may want MORE! But be sure to start with great quality fish. I have made this recipe with so many different kinds of seafood, from halibut, to cod, mussels, also done it with chicken breasts, and a vegetarian version as well.
It goes together quickly, and even more so if you have rice already cooked! If not, start the rice first. I especially like this dish with brown rice.
The cooking method used for this dish is braising, and because fish cooks so quickly, it is a short braise, on the cooktop where you can keep an eye on it. Want to learn more about braising? Check out this post. Here’s to dinner!
Thai Seafood Coconut Curry
This delicious curry dish works perfectly with a wide variety of seafood or as a vegetarian dish and, once tried, will be a go-to favorite!
1 tablespoon butter
2 tablespoons minced peeled fresh ginger
4 large cloves garlic (minced)
1 tablespoon curry paste
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup whipping cream
1 cup coconut milk
1 teaspoon freshly squeezed lime juice
1 tablespoon freshly grated lime zest
2 pounds uncooked seafood (boned & skinned, cut into large chunks (I used halibut))
Melt butter in heavy large skillet over medium-high heat. Add ginger, garlic curry paste and salt. Sauté until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Add cream, coconut milk, lime juice and zest. Bring mixture to a boil. Lower heat, and simmer 5 minutes. Add the seafood. Simmer until seafood is just opaque in center and sauce thickens slightly, about 5 minutes. Correct seasonings. Serve with rice, garnish with cilantro and green onions.
Serves 6. Optional vegetables to add: Carrots (precooked) Celery, add with ginger & garlic Red bell pepper, add with ginger & garlic Pea pods, add near end of cooking Green beans, (precooked)