Summertime often calls for simpler meals, and building your own charcuterie board is about as easy — and tasty — as it gets. The vibrant array of foods is not only a visual treat, but also quick and easy to assemble, and the variety of options encourages the whole family to pick and choose what they love.
Start with a few meats, the traditional components of a charcuterie board. From there, you can select cheeses and other elements based on the flavors you want to complement. Elizabeth Nerud, an American Cheese Society–certified cheese professional, suggests making friends with the cheesemonger at a local cheese counter. “They know the cheeses, their flavors and their stories, and if you tell them what you like, they can guide you.”
Once you’ve selected meats and cheeses, mix in fruits, crackers, veggies, and simple hors d’oeuvres. Include toothpicks, spoons, and other small utensils for ease and cleanliness, along with some napkins and small plates. You’ll have a satisfying summertime spread everyone can enjoy. Here are some of our top tips and recipes for a DIY charcuterie board:
- You can purchase your favorite nut- or seed-based crackers, or try our Almond Seed Crackers recipe (see below).
- Select a couple of meats or seafood. Salmon, prosciutto, salami, and mortadella are good options.
- Dried dates add a pleasantly chewy texture, while pickles provide acidity to balance the salty richness of the cheeses and cured meats.
- Pick two or three cheeses with different flavors and textures. “Focus on flavors you find friendly and inviting,” advises cheese professional Elizabeth Nerud, “and plan on about 2 ounces per person.”
- Nuts offer a crunchy contrast to creamy cheeses.
- Add some fresh fruit to your board; the sweetness will cut through the savory elements. If you’re serving apple or pear slices, spritz them with lemon juice to keep them from browning.
- Include some veggies for their crisp, fresh flavor and satisfying crunch.
Creamy Spinach and White Bean Dip
Makes six servings
Prep time: 20 minutes
- 1 15-oz. can cannellini or navy beans
- 2 tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
- 6 cloves garlic, peeled and halved lengthwise
- 2 tsp. chopped fresh rosemary
- 1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
- 2 cups packed fresh spinach
- 1/2 tsp. salt
Drain the beans over a bowl and let stand, reserving the liquid. Heat a small sauté pan over medium-low heat and add the olive oil, then add the halved garlic cloves and reduce the heat to low to maintain a gentle sizzle. Add the rosemary and black pepper; stir. Continue cooking, stirring periodically, until garlic is browned on both sides, about eight to 10 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool slightly.
Place the drained white beans in the bowl of a food processor and pulse a few times to chop. Scrape down the sides, then add the cooled oil-and-garlic mixture, spinach, and salt. Process to make a coarse purée.
Scrape into a bowl. If the mixture seems too thick, stir in some of the reserved bean liquid to reach desired texture. Cover tightly and refrigerate for up to four days. Serve with veggies and crackers for dipping.
This article originally appeared as "The Summer Spread" in the June 2020 issue of Experience Life.