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I love to have people over on the weekends and I try as mush as possible to spend less time in the kitchen and more time with my guests.

I came to realize that a night with friends and drinks doesn’t need much preparation, just a few good dips, a nice cheese platter and some smokes meats. (There are also a few more addtions that needed no effort at all… the pink bowl is tarama which is fish roe and to the left there is a plate of sliced bottarga (batarekh for my fellow Egyptains) which is salted, cured fish roe– known as the Egyptain caviar).

So here are a few nice ideas for the next time you have people over (about 10 people).

Cheese Platter

Pick 4-5 types of cheese between 300-400grams (10-15oz).

  • Gruyere – Swiss hard cheese from cows milk which creamy, sweet but slightly salty.
  • Cambozola – Combination of French soft-ripened triple cream cheese from cows milk and Italian Gorgonzola, its very rich and creamy.
  • Manchego – Spanish firm cheese from sheep’s milk, compact consistency and a buttery texture; its taste varies with its aging fresco (barely aged) semi-curado (softer and milder in flavor) curado (darker in color and has a nutty flavor) or viejo (darker in color, firmer and more compact in texture and has a rich deep pepperiness flavor)—I take my Manchego very seriously! (:
  • Provolone – Italian semi-hard cheese from cattle milk; its flavor varies by aging provolone piccante (sharp) provolone dolce (sweet)
  • Parmigiano-Reggiano– Italian hard granular cheese from cows milk, which is the sharper/ saltier side of the spectrum

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The list is endless but I always like to mix it up with different textures and levels of sharpness…

With that said, cheeses have to be paired with not only a variety of bread and crackers but also fruits, preserves, honey, jams and nuts.

I always arrange my cheese platter with an assortment of pairing items so my guests have choices.

For this patter I used fresh rosemary, pecans, dates, dried cranberries, grapes, red carrot jam, membrillo (Spanish quince paste to pair with the manchego) and some honey.

For the non-cheese lovers, I prepared a plate of smoked turkey, and bresaola (Italian air-dried beef) on some bread sticks.

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I also prepared a few dips like olive tapenade (recipe below) and tomato and cheese dip (recipie also below)

Olive Tapenade

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Ingredients:

  • 1-2  clove of garlic
  • 1 cup of pitted kalamata olives
  • 1-2 fillets of anchovies
  • 2 tbsp of chopped parsley
  • 2 tbsp of lemon juice
  • 2 tbsp of olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste

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Directions:

Place all the ingredients in a food processer and plus till you reach your preferred consistency.IMG_1381

Tomato and Cheese dip

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Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 to 1 3/4 cups of soft white cream cheese
  • 4 tomatoes, deseeded
  • splash of olive oil
  • Salt and peper to taste

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Directions:

Deeseed the tomatos then place all the ingredients in a food processer and plus till you reach your preferred consistency.

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All of this can be prepped before your guests arrive. Now all you need is your favorite drink in hand and your night it set to start!

ENJOY!

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