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.
In a food processor, with the machine running, drop 1 clove garlic through the feed tube to chop. Gradually add 1 cup pitted kalamata olives, 1 tablespoon capers, and 1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves. Turn off the machine and scrape down the sides, then turn the machine back on and drizzle in 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil. Transfer to a small bowl to serve.
Roasted Garlic Cashew “Chèvre” With Crudités
Soak 1 cup raw cashews overnight in the refrigerator. Place 8 peeled garlic cloves on a square of aluminum foil and drizzle with ½ tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, then crimp the foil to make a small, sealed package. Roast at 400 degrees F for about 30 minutes. Let cool, mash, and refrigerate.
Drain and rinse the cashews, then place them in a food processor or blender and purée, adding up to ½ cup water a little at a time as needed to make a smooth paste. Blend in 1 teaspoon unpasteurized, active apple-cider vinegar, then transfer to a large canning jar. Cover the jar with a kitchen towel and secure it with a rubber band. Let the purée stand at room temperature for two days until slightly bubbly.
Stir in the mashed garlic cloves, 1 teaspoon lemon juice, and 1/2 teaspoon sea salt. Serve in a small bowl with veggies for dipping, like carrot or jicama sticks, sliced peppers, or green beans.
Pickled Red Onions
Thinly slice 1 medium red onion and place in a bowl. In a small saucepan, combine 1/2 cup apple-cider vinegar, 1 tablespoon maple syrup, and 1 teaspoon sea salt, and bring to a boil. Pour the brine over the onion slices, stir to mix, and let stand for an hour at room temperature before serving.
Curry Roasted Almonds
Preheat oven to 300 degrees F and line a sheet pan with parchment paper. In a small saucepan, warm 2 tablespoons avocado oil over medium heat, then add 1 teaspoon brown mustard seeds and 1 teaspoon cumin seeds. When the oil starts to bubble, add 2 teaspoons curry powder and stir, then remove from heat and stir in 1 teaspoon maple syrup. Sprinkle 3 cups whole almonds over the mix and toss to coat, then sprinkle with 1 teaspoon coarse sea salt. Spread mixture on the parchment-lined sheet pan and bake for 15 to 20 minutes, until nuts are crisp. Cool on a rack and transfer to a bowl to serve.
Score the bottoms of three ripe peaches with an X, then blanch peaches in a pot of boiling water for two to three minutes. Transfer the fruit to an ice bath to stop the cooking, then peel with a paring knife. Dice and pit the peaches and place in a small saucepan with 2 tablespoons rice vinegar, 2 tablespoons minced fresh ginger, 1 tablespoon sucanat or brown sugar, 2 teaspoons minced fresh turmeric, 1/2 teaspoon sea salt, and ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper. Bring to a boil over medium heat, then lower heat to maintain a lively simmer. Cook, stirring until the peaches have softened and the mixture is thick, about five to 10 minutes. Makes about 1 cup.
Almond Seed Crackers
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Tear off two sheets of parchment paper, each about 16 inches long, for rolling out the crackers.
In a large bowl, whisk 1¾ cups almond flour and ¼ teaspoon sea salt. Stir in 1 large egg until the mixture becomes stiff, then knead with your hands until a dough forms. Shape into a rectangle, then place in the center of a sheet of parchment. Place the second sheet of parchment on top and use a rolling pin to roll the dough to 1/8-inch thick. Remove the top sheet and sprinkle with 1 tablespoon poppyseeds or sesame seeds. Place the parchment sheet back on top and pat it down to adhere the seeds to the cracker dough, then remove the top sheet and use a pizza wheel to cut crackers into 1-inch squares.
Transfer the parchment sheet with the cracker dough to the baking sheet and bake for 14 to 15 minutes, until golden brown at the edges. Cool on a wire rack before serving, and store in an airtight container for up to a week.
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 in Experience Life, Life Time’s whole-life health and fitness magazine.