An irresistible grazing table filled with tantalizing snacking boards can take summer entertaining to the next level. While charcuterie boards are always welcome, expanding your offerings to include multiple curated boards will only impress. The key is to include a rich assortment of nibbles so that you have something delicious available to tempt nearly every palate and meet a variety of dietary preferences. Below, we share suggestions for elevating your summer entertaining by assembling an eye-catching grazing table outfitted with mouthwatering delicacies.
The Ultimate Summer Cheese Board
Food & Wine interviewed chef Eric Brazel from the famous Fig Restaurant in Santa Monica, California, to get his recommendations for creating a wonderfully decadent cheese board for summer entertaining. Brazel suggests choosing hard, aged options that can stand up to heat and some creamy choices that are wonderful alternatives to familiar favorites. For example, he loves adding La Tur, an “Italian cheese made with cow, goat, and sheep milk… a variation of a Robiola cheese,” and a delicious alternative to traditional brie. Brazel also recommends using a variety of tangy goat cheese options, aged Gouda from the Netherlands, and French Ossau-Iraty.
Of course, with an upscale cheese board, you’ll need to elevate the accouterments. If you choose a Gorgonzola Dolce (among the cheese options Food & Wine loves), Brazel suggests complementing it with honeycomb, which “pairs so well with blue cheeses” and can be cubed for a better, easier-to-serve bite than liquid honey. If you want to include crackers, lean toward neutral flavors so that they don’t compete with or overpower the flavors of your chosen cheeses. Toasted nut breads bought at the local farmers’ market, unsalted almonds, firm stone fruit, and quince paste round out this ultimate cheese board deliciously.
Niçoise Party Board
Creating a snack board centered around a smoked salmon spread is an excellent way to kick off your summer entertaining plans. It’s one of EatingWell’s favorite additions to grazing tables because it references the classic (and much loved) Niçoise salad while giving it an impressive update ideal for gatherings. The Magazine raves about this board’s tempting selections: “Snappy green beans, fresh tomatoes, a medley of olives, and soft-boiled eggs sprinkled with chives and paprika serve as the ode to the classic [salad], while seeded crackers and mixed nuts add a crunchy upgrade.” When arranging this board, work from the center and move out, with the delectable smoked salmon cheese ball being the focus. Be sure to contain your olives in an eye-catching ramekin and place whole-grain mustard in a decorative jar near the salmon for easy spooning.
Mediterranean Appetizer Board
As Mediterranean diets have become increasingly popular, party hosts have grappled with elegant ways to offer the flavors of the region while entertaining. EatingWell has developed a “bountiful” grazing board that will thrill anyone who loves Mediterranean food. You begin with “a duo of classic hummus and roasted eggplant dip [with sizzled garlic, which] offers dunking options for seeded crackers, carrot sticks, and raw fennel slices.” From there, “juicy grapes and dried apricots provide a sweet counterpart to salty prosciutto and feta cheese.” As a bonus, the board’s flavors pair beautifully with crisp, acidic summer wine favorites like Assyrtiko or Sauvignon Blanc.
When hosting upscale gatherings for friends who love incredible Southern-style food (and who doesn’t), take your cue from Southern Living, which raves about its “Easy Summer Appetizer Board” filled with Southern delights. The Magazine advises hosts that “no Southern appetizer board is complete without spicy-sweet pickled okra,” with their personal favorite being the much-lauded Wickles Wicked Okra. The drained and chilled okra is included on the grazing board with torn bread or crackers, white cheddar-chive pimiento cheese, whole-grain Dijon mustard, and salted pecans. According to the Magazine, a bowl of Riesling peaches is a must, as is the addition of “thinly sliced salami, prosciutto, or country ham.” But if you really want to dazzle your guests, Southern Living recommends choosing a specialty salami that will thrill the taste buds. The Magazine’s favorite? “Olli Salumeria salami, slow-cured in Virginia and found in gourmet grocery stores across the South.”
Vegan Charcuterie Grazing Board
If you have vegan or vegetarian guests, EatingWell’s “Vegan Charcuterie Board” will be a welcome sight at your summer soiree. While you can substitute any of your favorite fresh, summer fruits and vegetables, “rainbow carrots and crisp pear slices offer refreshing crunch and visual appeal, while an assortment of seeded crackers and mini toasts make blank canvases for spreads and jams,” according to the Magazine. They also applaud seeing apple slices, blackberries, and grapes as options on this vegan grazing board because they “lend a fresh and fruity finish.” As for the dips and jams, EatingWell nominates a dazzling “Vegan Lemon-Dill Cashew Dip” and sweetly spicy red pepper jelly. Not only is this vegan board thoroughly satisfying on its own, but you’ll love how it pairs with blanc or rosé Champagnes.
While you may have already selected the main boards for your summer party, a selection of nibbles in decorative bowls is ideal for filling your grazing table and any gaps in flavors. For example, Food & Wine loves adding “Stilton-Stuffed Pickled Peppers” as an enhancer to already prepared cheese boards. The Magazine calls the combination of “two high-impact ingredients—funky Stilton cheese and pickled sweet or spicy peppers” … the ultimate one-bite snack. And while this is a thrill at evening parties in the summer, it’s versatile enough to pair with heavier options come the fall.
Are you a fan of homemade potato chips? You’ll love adding them to your grazing table. Food & Wine adores the idea of “[taking] those homemade potato chips and [serving] them with [a] herbed salmon tartare, prepared with both salmon fillet and hot-smoked salmon.”
Crudités are a grazing table “must-have,” but their success often relies on the freshness of your produce and the intrigue of your dips. Food & Wine recommends swapping traditional dips for a “pistachio dip, which is deliciously salty and creamy.” A cool dip like baba ghanoush with roasted brussels sprouts and hazelnuts is an ideal complement to your prepared Mediterranean board. Trufflin Black Truffle Ranch dip, which is “infused with cold-pressed black truffle oil,” is also among the Magazine’s favorites for hosts anticipating summer entertaining. Not only does it work brilliantly with crudités, but it’s a terrific match for Pipcorn Truffle Corn Dippers (when the savory black truffle dippers aren’t being paired with caviar, of course).
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