Cheese Boards 101: Regional Edition

We’re about to get into that time of year when entertaining guests becomes more regular and the weather demands heartier fare. Here are some tips for building a cheese board that is sure to wow! This version uses local and regional cheeses and be sure to check back for our Imported Edition.

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When building a cheese board, there are several things to consider: of course the types of cheese you’ll serve, but also quantities and accompaniments become important. If you’re serving cheese as a precursor to a fabulous meal, plan on 1-2 ounces of cheese per person. If cheese is the main event, plan on 5-6 ounces per person.

One thing you’ll definitely want to consider when building a cheese board is having a variety of flavors and textures. Our regional board features a creamy herbed labneh or yogurt cheese, a pungent and more crumbly blue cheese, a sturdy Swiss, a tangy and spreadable goat cheese and a hearty cheddar. Think about how you can incorporate cheeses that use cow’s, goat’s and sheep’s milk so that you can taste the difference in flavor.

While chowing down on big servings of cheese is always fun and delicious, it’s also important to serve accompaniments that provide balance to the flavors of your cheeses. We like to serve some sort of candied nuts (pistachios in this case) for sweetness and crunch. It’s also a good idea to serve some sort of bread item, like crackers, bread sticks or sliced baguettes. For this board we used multigrain crackers. Some sort of sweet fruit or chutney also adds for a nice balance. We have lots of fresh figs in right now, but dried figs or dates would also be delicious. And because it’s both pretty and delicious we like to serve a piece of local honeycomb from Woodland Apiaries.

Here are few other helpful tips when building a cheese board:
-Don’t overcrowd your board. You want to make sure that there is enough room to serve a knife for each type of cheese.
-Remove cheese from the refrigerator about an hour before your guests arrive. Cold cheese won’t have as strong a flavor.
-Be sure to label your cheeses so that you don’t have to repeat yourself all evening.

Now come on and let Dalynne, our resident Cheese-monger, help you build that perfect cheese board!

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APPY HOUR: Burrata + Plum Salad with Arugula

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Burrata- Italian for “you’ll never want to eat anything else again in your life.” Ok, not exactly. It actually means “buttery” and one taste of this souped up mozzarella cheese and you’ll be changed forever. Burrata, made from either buffalo or cow’s milk is an outer shell of fresh mozzarella cheese, filled with a mixture of cream and more mozzarella cheese. The result is a rich, creamy cheese that balances nicely with something sweet, like honey, or in this case plums and something peppery, like arugula.

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Plums, often under-utilized in salads, make the perfect addition to this recipe. This time of year, they’re nice and sweet with great texture and juiciness. We’ve also added a salty prosciutto, which can be omitted if you’re wanting to create a vegetarian dish.

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To assemble this salad place a bed of arugula down first. Remove pits from plums and slice, scattering plums on top of the greens. Tear proscuitto into small pieces and also place on greens. Place two balls of burrata on top, cutting open, so the creamy inside spills onto the rest of the salad. For extra sweetness, drizzle honey on top of the burrata.

How To: Make Apple Cider Vinegar

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If you have an over-abundance of apples, or peels and cores, then why not make your own apple cider vinegar? Sure, it’s easy enough to pick up on any grocery trip, but with some apple scraps, water and jar you can make your own! Apple cider vinegar is good for a whole host of things like cleaning, removing dandruff, clearing your skin and aiding your digestive health. So while you’re making those pies this fall or wondering what to do with the apples on your tree, save the extras and make your own vinegar!

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To make apple cider vinegar you will need:
•organic apple scraps, peels or cores (or all three)
•a large jar or jars depending on how much vinegar you’re making
•a cloth to keep out bugs and debris

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Wash apples and allow apple scraps to brown at room temperature. If you have whole apples, cut them into slices first. Place them in a jar and cover with water. Place a cloth or rag on top and store in a warm, dark place like a hot water closet. Let the jar stand for 6 months, stirring once a week. At the end of six months you will notice a grey scum on the top of the mixture. Pour the contents through a fine sieve into another jar. Place cloth on top and store for another four weeks. Store vinegar in a covered jar in the refrigerator to preserve freshness.

Preserve the Season: Ginger Pear Preserves

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We have boxes of beautiful local pears in store right now, and if the thought of eating 14 pounds of pears seems a little daunting, here’s an idea to preserve the harvest. These Ginger Pear preserves are sweet and spicy and would make a beautiful gift for someone. The pears develop a delicious caramelized flavor that pear pair nicely with a sharp and salty blue cheese- lovely for fall.

To make the preserves you will need:

3 pounds pears, peeled, cored and sliced
4 cups sugar
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/4 candied ginger, finely chopped
2 teaspoons fresh ginger, grated

In a large pot place the pears, sugar, lemon juice and fresh ginger. Cook over medium heat, stirring until the sugar dissolves. Add the candied ginger to the pot and stir to combine. Increase heat to medium-high and cook, stirring often, until the mixture is thick coats the back of a spoon, about 45 minutes. Pour into sterilized jars and process in a hot water bath. Without being processed in a hot water bath the preserves will keep in the refrigerator for 5 days.

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Let’s Toast: Peach Mojitos

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The long, warm days of summer are fading fast, but before it’s too late try making these peach mojitos, or faux-jitos if that’s more your style. Since we have delicious, juicy peaches right now, making them with fresh peach puree is the way to go. But if it ends up being the middle of winter before you get around to making these, well, shame on you… just joking– you can make these with bottled peach nectar too! We got a little fancy and finely chopped some mint and mixed it with sugar to coat the rims of our jars. And while this step isn’t necessary, it ups the wow factor.

To make these mojitos you will need:

3 cups of peaches, peeled, pitted and chopped
1 teaspoon lime zest
1 cup lime juice
2/3 cup sugar
2 cups white rum
4 cups club soda, chilled
1/2 cup packed mint leaves
lime wedges for garnish

Place peaches in a blender or food processor and blend until smooth. Press peach puree through a fine sieve into a bowl and discard solids. In a large pitcher, combine zest, lime juice, sugar, and mint. Muddle the  juice mixture with the back of a long wooden spoon. Add the peach puree and rum to the pitcher, stirring until sugar dissolves. Mix in club soda. Serve over crushed ice. And garnish with lime wedges.

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Carrot Applesauce Muffins with Walnuts + Currants

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Apples are starting to make their way into the store (yea fall!) and we’ll be bringing you a ton of recipes and visual guides. These are a healthier-than-usual muffin that use applesauce (we’ll be teaching you how to make your own soon) and shredded carrots, which we have from local farmers. These freeze nicely, so they can be defrosted in the morning quickly for a nice bite in the morning. We added walnuts and currants to ours, but feel free to add in other nuts or fruits or omit entirely.

To make these muffins you will need:

1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1/2 cup honey
1 egg at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup unsweetened applesauce
3/4 cup finely shredded carrots (about 2-3 medium carrots)
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1/2 cup dried currants

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a 12-cup muffin tin with paper liners. In a large bowl whisk together the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, and salt. Add the butter, honey, egg, vanilla, and applesauce.
Stir ingredients together until just combined, then add in nuts and currants. Fold in the shredded carrots until combined just combined.  Distribute the batter evenly among the muffin liners (we recommend an ice cream scoop). Bake for 18-20 minutes until a toothpick inserted in the center of a muffin comes out clean. Remove to a wire rack to cool completely. 

Appy Hour: Fresh Fig Bruschetta

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It’s that special time of year. You’re getting ready to pull out your sweaters and boots and say “sayonara” to tank tops and flip flops. The evenings have a slight chill and pumpkin flavored things are beginning to make an appearance. We love to celebrate the changing seasons at the Co-op with recipes that highlight unique ingredients.

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If the only way you know figs is through Newtons, prepare to be amazed. They offer sweetness, smoothness and crunch all wrapped up into one tiny fruit- which (FUN FACT!) grow on ficus trees. They’re flavor isn’t overpowering, which allows them to pair nicely with a mild cheese and toasted bread.

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Figs will automatically up your host(ess) game, so be prepared for the oohs and aahs at your next shindig.

To make this bruschetta you will need:
1 baguette or loaf of crusty white bread cut into slices and toasted
1/4 cup olive oil
4 ounces of goat cheese, softened
1 pint of fresh figs, sliced thinly
fresh thyme
honey

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Brush bread slices with olive oil and arrange in a single layer on a baking sheet. Toast in the oven for 10-15 minutes. Let bread cool slightly and spread goat cheese on each piece. Top with slices of fresh figs and a sprinkle of thyme leaves. Drizzle honey over the top and serve.

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Cucumber Salsa

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Our kitchen’s made-from-scratch products are ever changing and growing as we develop more relationships with local growers and this cucumber salsa is a perfect example. We’re able to use local cucumbers, herbs, onions, tomatoes and peppers to highlight the flavors of the season. And now we’re sharing the recipe with you!

To make this salsa you will need:

1 large cucumber, peeled, seeded & diced
1/2 pound cucumber, peeled, seeded, & diced
1/4 pounds red onion, finely diced
1/4 pounds fresh tomato, seeded & minced
1/4 cup fresh cilantro, finely diced
1/4 cup fresh mint, finely diced
1  fresh jalapeno, seeded & minced
2 tablespoons lime juice
1 tablespoon safflower oil
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon ground black pepper

Peel the cucumbers, cut them in half lengthwise, and remove the seeds with a spoon. Then finely dice them. Prep the rest of the vegetables as directed and place them all in a large bowl. Whisk together the safflower oil, lime juice, salt, and pepper. Toss with the vegetables, adjusting salt and pepper to taste. Serve with tortilla chips or as a refreshing topping for tacos.

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Chocolate Ch-ch-ch-chia Pudding

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If you’re used to Chia Pets and Chia Heads you may never have thought about eating chia seeds… before now. These tiny seeds pack a punch of nutrients in very few calories, they’re full of protein and fiber, deliver plenty of antioxidants and can help with heart health– they’re also a great source of calcium for people who follow a dairy-free diet. Native to South America, chia seeds were consumed by the Aztecs and Mayans and were praised for their ability to provide sustained energy. Only recently have they made in a surge in modern diets, as people are recognizing their health benefits.  This recipe requires that the chia seeds soak for several hours, so take that into account when making this pudding.
To make this Chocolate Chia Pudding you will need:
1/3 cup of chia seeds
1 1/2 cups coconut milk
3 tablespoons agave syrup
2 tablespoons cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
In a large bowl, whisk together milk, agave, cocoa and vanilla until well combined. Add chia seeds and let soak for 2-3 hours. Enjoy!
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