Meat and Cheese Board or Tagliere
The board we created for our summer visitors in Entertaining Made Easy contains a couple of our favorite meats and three delicious cheeses that were not selected to conform to the rules of creating the perfect cheese board. We picked them specifically to suit out guests’ taste. We added fruit, pickled vegetable and olives along with bread and oil.
Here’s a taste of what made the cut…
Prosciutto di Parma
This Italian cured meat has a distinct, savory flavor that is both sweet and salty. The texture is soft and supple and when sliced correctly is almost thin enough to see through with each layer wrapped in waxed paper to keep it from drying. In this way it is perfect for eating with fruit on sandwiches or even alone. Of course there are uses for thicker cuts of prosciutto, but for our cutting board it’s always done in this way. Only prosciutto made in the Emilia-Romagna region of Italy from the hind legs of specific breeds of pigs can be called and branded Prosciutto di Parma. Although there are some very tasty domestic prosciuttos available, this imported specialty is our favorite and we rarely if ever buy any other kind.
Chianti Red Wine Salame
There are many different kinds of salame, soppressata and dried sausage cured with a variety of different spices and seasonings. We’ve tried most of them and so far seem to love them all. We recently discovered red wine salame and are hooked on it. It is aromatic with a robust flavor that is slightly less peppery than other sausages we’ve tasted. The wine and fat seem to balance the salt for a perfect taste in every bite.
This is an aged French cheese made from goat’s milk. It’s rich creamy texture makes it perfect to spread on bread or crackers. It has a nutty and mild flavor and is extremely satisfying.
This is a very popular cow’s milk cheese from Northern Italy’s Veneto region. You might be familiar with the harder, more mature version of this cheese, but we opted for asiago fresco which is a younger semi-soft variety. This cheese has a melt-in-your-mouth buttery flavor. We enjoyed it sliced but it’s also perfect for melting.
This is a cow’s milk (or sometimes sheep’s milk depending on the region) cheese made in southern Italy, however we purchased a domestic version for this board mostly because it’s the only scamorza I’ve found in our neighborhood. Scamorza is sometimes described as a drier mozzarella. It’s texture is elastic like mozzarella and it’s flavor is tangy but creamy. It’s also great for melting and can be used in place of mozzarella.
Mediterranean Mix Olives
These olives are a mix of red and black olives prepared in olive oil and seasoned with rosemary.
These jarred artichokes are on a short list of prepared products we keep on hand and use regularly. They are pickled and preserved in olive oil and have a generous shelf life. I only know this because the jars we get are little and sometimes get lost in the back of our corner cabinet. Otherwise they to go fast. They are great with bread, mix perfectly with meats, cheeses and olives and their flavor holds up even by themselves.
This fruit is half of a wonderful antipasto called prosciutto e melone. This melon is the sweet to prosciutto’s salty flavor. They are an absolutely wonderful pairing and pretty quick and easy to prepare. The sweet contrast to the rich and salty meat offering is absolutely classic!
Breadsticks are easy to find in any supermarket or specialty shop and they keep well in your cabinet so it’s smart to keep them on hand for a snacking emergency. Bread on the other hand has proven to be quite challenging for us. As surprising as it sounds, not all Manhattan neighborhood sell good, quality, authentic Italian bread. In a pinch we settle for grocery store rolls or baguettes but when there is time, we make our own. And by we I mean Mike. Check out Breaking Bread and The Bread for more on that topic.
This has been another challenge for us over the past several years. The olive oil industry has been marked with controversy lately and many of the well known brand you’ve known for years are either made with subpar olives by subpar methods or are fakes entirely cut with vegetable oil. We’ll talk more about olive oil in future posts, but for today we used a mild but reliable California oil by California Olive Ranch to suit the taste of our esteemed guests.