What better way to share the season of gatherings and entertaining than with delicious food? Serving a variety of tempting small bites creates a festive table. A place where conversation lingers, laughter ensues, and palates are satiated. For an evening of nibbles, I like to prepare a collection of dishes that play to all the senses; creamy, crunchy, sweet, savory, fragrant, indulgent, and of course fresh and simple. This might seem like a daunting list of requirements, but I assure you it’s quite easy with the following menu.
PICK + CHOOSE
Dips: assorted flavors and styles of hummus, chimichurri, Romesco, homemade ranch, tzatziki, buttermilk, dill, French onion, spinach, and eggplant
Charcuterie: assorted salumi, prosciutto, mortadella, pancetta, Italian salami
Cheese: Grana Padano, Parmesan, Romano, Pecorino, Manchego, Iberico, Cheddar, Irish Cheddar, assorted Blues, assorted Brie, assorted goat cheese, Basque, Triple Cream, Swiss, Gruyère
Pickled Items: olives, peppers, vegetables
Vegetables: carrots, romanesco, broccoli, cauliflower, jicama, tomatoes, mini peppers, sugar snap peas, cucumbers, blanched green beans, blanched asparagus, endive leaves
Fruit: strawberries, grapes, raspberries, orange wedges, figs, cherries, halved and pitted apricots, pineapple, mango, kiwi, star fruit
Assorted Whole Nuts: almonds, macadamias, cashews, hazelnuts, pistachios, pecans, walnuts
Dried Fruits and Vegetables: orange slices, apricots, figs, dates, beet chips, sweet-potato chips, plantains, sun-dried tomatoes
ASSORTED VEGETABLE, FRUIT, AND CHEESE BOARD
Creating a vegetable, fruit, and cheese board is one of the easiest ways to feed a crowd. I like to include a little bit of everything, which creates a lovely visual for guests. There is no right or wrong way to assemble this board, just use your creativity and an assortment of luscious ingredients. I begin with the dip or dips, cheese, vegetables, and then fruit. After those ingredients are placed on the board, I fill in the empty spaces with fun ingredients like dried fruit, dried vegetables, nuts, charcuterie, condiments, and crackers or breadsticks. If I run out of room for the crackers and crostini or breadsticks, I’ll place those on a separate platter. You can also use edible flowers or fresh herbs for garnish. See the sidebar for plenty of ingredient ideas.
Serves 8 to 12
- 2 to 3 dips, mustards, or spreads
- 3 different kinds of cheese; soft, hard, and crumbly (about 6 ounces each)
- 4 to 5 different kinds of vegetables
- Assorted olives, gherkins, artichokes
- 3 to 4 different kinds of fruit
- 1 to 2 different kinds of nuts
- 1 to 2 kinds of crackers, crostini, cheese crisps, or breadsticks
- 2 to 3 different kinds of dried fruits and vegetables
- 2 to 3 different kinds of charcuterie
Begin with a wood, marble, or slate board. I have a large wood cutting board I use as a veggie and cheese board. My board is about 15 inches by 12 inches and is perfect for serving up to twelve adults if needed.
Start with the dip bowls. I place them near each the end of the board. Then I place the cheese on the board. I like to have 1 whole round or wedge of cheese and then little slices or nibbles of cheese throughout the board. But you can use all rounds, halves, or wedges if you like.
Next place the veggies around the cheese and near the dips. Then fill in with the fresh fruit. As the board begins to fill, add a handful of nuts, crackers, dried fruit and veggies, charcuterie, and condiments in the empty spaces.
STUFFED DATES WITH GOAT CHEESE AND HONEY
This is one recipe I usually double. These stuffed dates are simple to make, and because they’re small, they disappear quickly! I typically garnish these stuffed dates with fresh thyme or finely chopped pistachios. But for extra flavor and a special treat, you might garnish them with finely chopped bacon.
- 24 Medjool dates, pitted or pits removed
- 5 ounces creamy or spreadable goat cheese
- ¼ cup honey
- Fresh chopped thyme or pistachios, for garnish
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Slice lengthwise down the center of each date to create an opening or pocket for the goat cheese.
Place the goat cheese in a pastry bag or baggie. If using the baggie, snip the corner. Then pipe the goat cheese into each date. Place the dates on a parchment-lined baking sheet and bake them for about 10 minutes.
Remove them from the oven and let them cool for 1 to 2 minutes. Transfer to a platter and then drizzle with the honey and garnish with the fresh thyme or chopped pistachios. Serve immediately.