Charcuterie Board

It is impossible for me to indulge in a charcuterie board without reminiscing of wine country vacations with picnic lunches overlooking vineyards. If social distancing has you feeling bored at home and day dreaming about traveling, try creating a vacation-like experience at home with a decorative meat and cheese board and your favorite bottle of vino. 

Last month we spent a wonderful weekend with friends and enjoyed this beautiful and delicious board. This work of art was created by @Noel_Zoeller, also known as the Charcuterie Board Master. Noel shared his framework for achieving variety and balance, so follow his rule of threes and see where your creativity takes you.

Charcuterie Board Framework

  • 3 cheeses
  • 3 meats
  • 3 nuts
  • 3 vegetables
  • 3 fruits
  • 3 crackers or breads

Noel also recommends placing your cheeses on the board first and then building around them, placing complimentary items together. He says fresh herbs are perfect for decoration and elevating your board to the next level.

Cheers to experimenting with charcuterie boards and making the most of your time at home while keeping your family and community safe during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Sweet Piquante Pepper Cheese Spread

This spread is a unique take on pimento and cheese made with piquante peppers, which give it a sweet heat kick. These cherry tomato shaped peppers are often labeled under the brand name Peppadew® and are commonly found in the olive bar section of grocery stores. A friend introduced me to the combination of cheese and sweet piquante peppers a few years ago, and I have been in love with this pairing since my first bite. Whole sweet piquante peppers make a lovely addition to cheese boards and compliment a wide variety of cheeses.

If you’re watching the big game this weekend, this is a great appetizer to serve along with your favorite beer.

Ingredients:
1 cup plain Greek yogurt
1½ cups sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
¾ cup mild whole sweet piquante peppers, chopped
¼ cup mayonnaise with olive oil
¼ teaspoon garlic powder
Celery sticks or crackers for serving

Directions:

  1. Place the yogurt in a food processor. Add cheese, peppers, mayonnaise and garlic powder, and pulse until the cheese spread is well combined.
  2. Chill for at least an hour or overnight. Serve with celery sticks or crackers.

Beet Bites with Goat Cheese and Pecans

Beets, with their ruby-red-jewel tone, make a colorful plate presentation during the grey winter season. You can cut back on the recipe time by roasting the beets the night before and assembling right before you are ready to enjoy. Leftovers are delicious served for lunch over leafy greens with balsamic vinaigrette.

Ingredients:
1 bunch beets, trimmed and scrubbed
1 cup water
4 to 5 ounces goat cheese
½ cup pecan halves, toasted
2 tablespoons balsamic glaze
2 tablespoons honey

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Wrap each beet in aluminum foil. Place on a baking sheet and roast for about 60 minutes. Remove from oven and refrigerate for at least an hour.
  2. Unwrap and remove the skin from the beets with a small knife. You may want to wear gloves for this step as the beets will stain your hands pink. If not, the beet juice will wash off with soap and water. Slice the beets and arrange on a serving platter.
  3. Heat 1 cup of water in the microwave or run hot tap water. With a clean knife, thinly slice goat cheese. Dip knife in water as needed between slicing to create smooth cuts. Place cheese on beet slices and top with pecans.
  4. Drizzle with balsamic glaze and honey. Serve immediately.

Cucumber and Tuna Salad Bites

Enjoy my Cucumber and Tuna Salad Bites as a refreshing appetizer, picnic dinner or light afternoon lunch. If you keep your pantry and fridge stocked with tuna, olive tapenade and yogurt, you can whip up a quick batch of these whenever you have fresh cucumbers in your CSA or growing in your garden. I have enjoyed many delicious cucumbers from Sustainable Harvest Farm in our weekly produce share this summer and this has been one of my favorite ways to enjoy them.

Ingredients:
1 (4 ounce) can solid white, no salt-added, Albacore tuna in water
2 tablespoons plain non-fat Greek yogurt
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
2 tablespoons olive tapenade
¼ teaspoon salt
1 large cucumbers, sliced

Directions:

  1. Drain tuna and flake with a fork in a medium bowl.
  2. Add yogurt, mayonnaise, olive tapenade and salt. Stir to evenly combine.
  3. Use a small ice cream scoop or spoon to add dollops of tuna salad on each slice of cucumber.

Mushroom and Goat Cheese Toast

If you know a local mushroom farmer or grow your own mushrooms, you are so lucky and I am a little jealous. I created this recipe when I had access to weekly fresh mushrooms at a Farmers’ Market when we lived in Wisconsin. Most Saturdays I would make this recipe as soon as I got home from the market and serve it with a fried egg for breakfast or side salad for lunch. I couldn’t wait to eat these mushrooms and this simple and quick dish made it possible to get them on my plate in about 15 minutes. The recipe quantities below make this a great appetizer for a small group, but just trim the amount back if you want to enjoy this as a meal for one or two.

Ingredients:
14 inch baguette
8 ounces shiitake mushrooms
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons water
2 tablespoons fresh thyme, finely chopped
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon black pepper
4 ounces goat cheese

Directions:

  1. Turn oven broil setting to low heat. Slice bread into about 16 pieces and place on a baking sheet. Set aside while preparing mushrooms.
  2. Remove stems from the mushrooms and gently wash the tops before thinly slicing. Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add mushrooms and sauté for about four minutes. Add 2 tablespoons of water and continue cooking for another 4 to 6 minutes, until tender and golden brown. Add thyme, salt and pepper to the mushrooms and stir to evenly coat.
  3. Broil baguette slides on each side for 1 to 2 minutes. Top with equal amounts of mushrooms and goat cheese and continue broiling for another 2 minutes until cheese is warm. Serve immediately.

Servings: 8 (2 slices as appetizer)

 

Black Bean Hummus

Looking for a healthy appetizer you can quickly throw together? Whip up a batch of my Black Bean Hummus in less than five minutes. Keep canned beans in your pantry and garlic and lemon in the fridge to make this a go-to dish when you want a delicious homemade snack. It is so easy to make and tastes much better than the store-bought variety. Serve it with carrot sticks, tortilla chips or whatever you like to dip. Make it a meal by spreading hummus in a wrap or on a slice of bread topped with your favorite roasted vegetables.

Ingredients:
1 (15 ounce) can no salt added black beans
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons water
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon cumin
¼ teaspoon salt
⅛ teaspoon cayenne pepper

Directions:

  1. Rinse and drain beans.
  2. Fit a food processor with the steel blade. Add all ingredients in the food processor and pulse until smooth. Transfer to a bowl and serve.

Servings: 4

Barbecue Pork Nachos

Barbecue nachos are a game day favorite in my hometown of Memphis, Tenn., and they are about as popular as Elvis around my old stomping grounds. For my take on this southern classic, I recommend a tangy and slightly sweet sauce. I keep my pantry well stocked with my favorite barbecue sauces so I am ready for the Football World Series or any good sports event throughout the year. My Slow Cooker Drunken Pork recipe is great for this dish. Making the pork the day before turns this into an 8-minute recipe you can whip up during halftime, if you are willing to miss a few commercials. Cheers to enjoying these nachos with good friends and a frosty beverage as you watch the Battle of the Pigskin.

Ingredients:
4 ounces tortilla chips (about 56 chips)
2 cups pulled pork
½ cup barbecue sauce, divided
½ cup shredded cheddar cheese
1 extra small red onion, cut in half and thinly sliced
1 jalapeño, seeded and sliced
1 ripe avocado, pitted, peeled and diced

Directions:

  1. Preheat broiler to high. Line one half-sheet baking pan with parchment paper or use a non-stick baking pan.
  2. Arrange tortilla chips across the pan and top with pork. Drizzle half of the barbecue sauce over the pork and chips and top with cheddar cheese, onion slices and jalapeño slices. Drizzle the remaining sauce on top of the nachos.
  3. Broil until heated through and cheese is melted, 5 to 6 minutes. Top with avocado and serve.

Servings: 4

Bourbon Maple Pork Tenderloin with Goat Cheese Mashed Potatoes

The aroma of grilled meat lofting in the air makes me hungry, even if I’ve already had a meal. Add a little bourbon, maple syrup and Dijon mustard in the mix, and the smell of your pork tenderloin on the grill may even bring your neighbors over for dinner. Paired with creamy goat cheese mashed potatoes, this recipe is simple enough for a throw-together meal and impressive enough to serve when entertaining. It also makes a wonderful hearty appetizer for a crowd, and doubling the recipe will give you more to pass around. Serve this dish with your favorite bourbon of course.

Bourbon Maple Pork Tenderloin Ingredients:
1 whole pork tenderloin, about 1 pound
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon ground black pepper
2 tablespoons maple syrup
2 tablespoons bourbon
2 tablespoons country Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary

Goat Cheese Mashed Potato Ingredients:
1 pound potatoes (about 2½ cups), diced and unpeeled
water
½ tablespoon butter
½ cup skim milk
4 ounces goat cheese
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon ground white pepper

Directions:

  1. Preheat an outdoor grill to medium heat. Place pork on a large plate or platter and season with salt and pepper. In a small bowl, whisk together maple syrup, bourbon, mustard and rosemary. Brush the pork with half of the glaze, reserving the rest.
  2. Grill the tenderloin for about 10 minutes, turning occasionally. Brush with remaining glaze and continue cooking 2 to 5 additional minutes, until pork reaches an internal temperature of 140 degrees Fahrenheit. Place pork on a cutting board and cover with aluminum foil. Let the tenderloin rest for 5 to 10 minutes before slicing.
  3. Meanwhile, in a large saucepan, add potatoes and cover with water. Bring to a boil and reduce to low heat. Cover and cook for about 10 minutes, until tender. Drain water and return to the stove over low heat. Add skim milk, butter, salt and pepper and mash with a potato masher while butter melts. Add goat cheese and use a hand-held mixer to whip potatoes on high until smooth and creamy.

Servings: 4

Eggplant and Summer Squash Stacks

Summer is not over yet, and I’m not ready to say goodbye to some of my favorite seasonal produce. If you are like me and want to savor these flavors as long as you can, fire up the grill and celebrate these last couple of weeks before we welcome fall. Eggplant is a great match for summer squash stacked between layers of melted fresh mozzarella and homemade pesto. Enjoy as an appetizer or pair with a simple salad and a glass of your favorite white wine for an easy dinner outdoors as you watch the sunset.

Ingredients:
toothpicks
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
2 small eggplants, cut crosswise into ¼ inch slices
2 medium summer squash, cut crosswise into ¼ inch slices
2 tablespoons pesto
4 ounces fresh mozzarella cheese, thinly sliced into about 20 pieces

Directions:

  1. Soak toothpicks in a small bowl of water to prevent scorching when grilling.
  2. In a small bowl, add garlic, olive oil, balsamic vinegar, mustard, salt and pepper. Whisk to combine, creating a grilling sauce for the produce.
  3. Arrange eggplant and squash on a large plate or platter and brush both sides evenly with the grilling sauce.
  4. Preheat a gas or charcoal grill to medium-high heat. Grill vegetables until golden brown and cooked through, about 4 to 5 minutes per side. Remove from grill and move produce to a working surface.
  5. Remove toothpicks from water and set aside. Create eggplant and summer squash stacks by spreading a thin layer of pesto on a slice of eggplant and topping with a slice of summer squash and mozzarella cheese. Repeat layers and top with an extra squash or eggplant slice, then secure each stack with a toothpick. You should end up with about 10.
  6. Place eggplant and summer squash stacks back on the grill at medium-high heat for a couple of minutes, until cheese melts. Remove from grill and serve.

B-Kale-T Bites

Move over lettuce, sautéed kale is a new match for crispy bacon and juicy tomato slices. Served over toasted baguette slices, these bites make a hardy appetizer that is easy to eat with your hands. It’s an easy dish to make with two farm-fresh ingredients from your Community Supported Agriculture share or with summer favorites from the Farmers’ Market. This dish pairs well with an earthy Pinot Noir from Willamette Valley Oregon. Just make this simple recipe, open a bottle of vino and you are ready to entertain.

Ingredients:
1 bunch kale
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 tablespoons water
¼ teaspoon salt, plus more for serving
¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
½ whole grain baguette, cut into ¼ inch slices
3 tablespoons mayonnaise
2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
2 medium tomatoes, sliced
10 slices bacon, cooked to desired level of crispy

Directions:

  1. Remove stems from kale and roughly chop. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat, add kale and water. Sauté for 4 to 5 minutes, until wilted. Season with salt and pepper.
  2. Preheat broiler to high. Broil for about one to two minutes per side, until lightly browned on the edges.
  3. In a small bowl, mix mayonnaise and balsamic vinegar. Spread balsamic mayonnaise on baguette slices and top with bacon, kale and tomatoes. Add a pinch of salt to the tomato on these B-Kale-T Bites and serve.

Servings: 4