This Summer Grazing Board Is the Ultimate Appetizer for Easy Entertaining
Our answer to summer entertaining: a grazing board. Forget individual appetizers and assemble an interactive board that brings together the best of crudités, cheese, and charcuterie boards-it's a snack lover's dream. The best part? There's no cooking necessary; just assemble, then let guests help themselves. Here's how to select the best ingredients and arrange a stunning presentation.
Start by selecting an oversized board that's large enough to artfully arrange each item while maintaining visual order. Think of it as a blank canvas for swirling, layering, and swooping flavors, colors, textures and making a visually appealing presentation. Make sure the surface is food safe.
If you don't have an oversized board, arrange multiple boards side by side.
Slice and Dice
Cut every item that goes on the board so it is ready to eat. Keep slices to one or two bites, allowing guests to try a bit of everything without getting too full. Leave the cheese knives for the cheese boards; this is an eating-with-your-hands experience.
Start with the main ingredients, cheese, meats, and dips are the building blocks of the board. Space each out in their own area, then place items around them to suggest what pairs well together.
Choose two or three different cheeses, and be sure to select types that stand up to the summer heat. Aged, hard, and semi-firm are in. Soft melty cheeses and overly robust or stinky cheeses, like blue, that melt in the heat and aren't conducive to eating with your hands are out. Each cheese should be different in color, shape, and flavor.
Prep: Manchego and Drunken Goat both have beautiful edible rinds and slice into sharp triangles. Cut a fancy Swiss-style cheese or a Gouda with rounder edges in half and then slice crosswise for a different shape. Crumble aged Cheddar or Parmesan into bite-sized bits.
Arrange: Visually divide the platter into two or three segments, then select an area for each cheese. Fan slices in artful overlapping half-moons.
Pro Tip: It's easiest to slice cheese when it's cold. Get ahead by slicing the night before and gathering the slices back up into a block or wedge. Wrap well in plastic and refrigerate.
Select two types of cured meats. Opt for thinly sliced, beautifully marbled meats, like prosciutto and capicola, or salami.
Arrange: Select spaces on either side of the board for each type of charcuterie. Try rolling or folding the meat too, for an interesting presentation. Slice salami thinly.
Place one or two vibrantly colored dips into bowls of varying size. The bowls add dimension and height to the board. Choose dips that bring new flavors to the board and add pops of color, drawing people's eyes to them.
Style: Place the bowls in any remaining gaps on the board, leaving enough room around them to arrange dippers, like crunchy vegetables. Add a few smaller bowls with pickled items such as olives and cornichons.
Fruit and Vegetables
Select seasonal fruits and vegetables with bright colors such as radishes, cucumbers, bell peppers, figs, and grapes.
Style: Cut the vegetables into different shapes and arrange them in a flowing circular pattern around the dips. Whole carrots turn into elegant baby carrots when you cut them on a strong bias into two-bite pieces. Leave edible greens on young radishes and baby carrots. Pull apart white and red endive and arrange the beautiful two-toned leaves around a bowl. Opt for yellow or purple cauliflower and break into florets. Place fruits that go particularly well with certain cheeses or meats right next to them. Halved figs pair well with cheeses and meats as do grapes.
No grazing board is complete without crackers, the base for building the perfect bite. Pick at least two different types. Try nut and fruit crisps and rustic flatbreads to add shape and texture.
Style: Swirl or stack the crackers into remaining empty spaces. Give them a semblance of order to keep the board looking neat.
Use nuts to bring the board together and help fill any remaining gaps. Plus, they happen to go great with everything on the platter. Use your favorite nuts whether almonds or peanuts or pistachios.
Style: For an extra-beautiful finishing touch, add herbs from the garden. Food styling bonus if they are flowering!