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).
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
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.
I also prepared a few dips like olive tapenade (recipe below) and tomato and cheese dip (recipie also below)
- 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
Place all the ingredients in a food processer and plus till you reach your preferred consistency.
Tomato and Cheese dip
- 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
Deeseed the tomatos then place all the ingredients in a food processer and plus till you reach your preferred consistency.
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!