I had a small catering job last week for a meeting for a group of women. The meeting was mid-afternoon, and they wanted some hors d’oeuvres that would be pretty and nice, but not too heavy. One of the items I proposed to them was a Fall cheese and fruit tray, and I was thrilled that was one item they chose.
To start, I found a beautiful, albeit simple, rustic wooden serving tray from HomeGoods. It has some hardware on the corner, and it is a great mix of modern and rustic – and the perfect size for a large cheese tray! (It is slightly ridiculous how excited I was to put this cheese tray together!)
Here are some other examples of rustic-looking wooden trays that would work for this type of cheese tray:
If you need an appetizer for Thanksgiving, this idea is perfect. It doesn’t require much cooking – just shopping, deciding on ingredients, some slicing, and arranging. Think flower arranging but with food! The colors are very Fall, and it would be lovely served with wine. See below for some of my tips!!
Okay, here are my steps:
- Decide how many types of cheese to include. I had 60 people in mind, so I included 9 types of cheese. For a family gathering of 12-15 people, you’d only need 3-5 types of cheese.
- For cheese, I like to have the following:
- Something sliced that can be picked up and placed on a cracker (colby jack, extra sharp cheddar, swiss, monterey jack)
- Something smoky (gouda is my preference; smoked cheddar is another option)
- Something blue and creamy (Stilton, gorgonzola) – Keep them in a triangle
- Something tart (goat cheese is my preference)
- Another creamy one, kept in a triangle (brie). Brie goes perfectly with fruit and toasted bread.
- Additions: shaved parmesan; another type of blue; another sliced cheese
- Havarti and fontina are two great types as well
- Select your fruit. Think seasonal and also consider the colors you want. You’ll want some dried fruit and some fresh fruit.
- I browsed Whole Foods and found Satsuma mandarin oranges with beautiful stems and leaves still attached. I peeled some and then placed a couple whole oranges on the tray for garnish and color.
- Dried figs, if fresh are not in season. Cut them in half and they are lovely! Plus they pair so well with many of the cheeses.
- Sliced pears would be perfect for Fall.
- Grapes are always a must for a cheese tray. I found these very dark purple grapes to help with the color scheme.
- The raspberries at Whole Foods were pretty, and though they are technically out of season, I added them for color, tartness, and because it was a ladies event. Berries, and even melon would be nice on a cheese tray.
- Add some nuts. It is nice to have some crunch, and nuts, cheese and fruit go so well together. I had two flavors of nuts – one more sweet, one more savory and herbal.
- Sesame cashews
- Rosemary and sea salt marcona almonds
- Other additions. If this cheese tray is all you are serving, adding something with a briny flavor pairs well.
- Marinated artichokes
- Olives (buy the nice kind – from an olive bar, such as the ones in Harris Teeter or Whole Foods)
- Charcuterie. I always like to add some type of Italian deli meat.
- My favorite is prosciutto. The appearance is nice, it pairs perfectly with figs and creamy cheese, and it adds texture to the cheese tray.
- Salami or another harder Italian meat are nice choices. I used salami and pepperoni with another appetizer that day, so I held them off of the cheese tray.
- Garnish with herbs.
- I used fresh rosemary to garnish the cheese tray.
- Sage leaves would be beautiful in the Fall.
- Bread and crackers.
- For this event, I had 4 types of crackers. Buy or make crackers with different flavors, shapes and sizes. I had one that had a touch of sweetness with dried raisins, then some flatbread crackers with rosemary, and a basic but pretty, large round cracker with whole grains and black sesame seeds.
- Buy something with height. Cheese straws and breadsticks are great.
- Make crostini. Thinly slice regular or whole wheat baguettes, brush with olive oil, and bake at 400 until crisp and lightly browned.
- Offer a gluten free option on a separate tray.
- Serving utensils.
- You will not necessarily need many utensils, but you do need a few spreaders or cheese knives.
- I used wooden spreaders found at Sur la Table.
- Random tips
- I placed brown (natural) parchment down on the tray so the food did not directly come in contact with the wood.
- Place the cheese on the tray first, and not all facing the same direction or right in line.
- After the cheese, place the larger fruit and the prosciutto.
- Fill in with the smaller fruit and nuts next.
- Garnish with the oranges and herbs last.
- I also propped up a couple of the triangle cheeses, like the brie, on some of the grapes.
- Label. I used a small chalkboard serving piece to show which cheeses were which. I’ve also made small flags to place in each type of cheese with a label on past cheese trays.
Enjoy and have fun making something like this cheese and fruit tray!