Today's blog post begins with a very specific question: What can we prepare when we are not in the mood to…cook? When arranging a last-minute get-together with a few friends? When we are sitting tired on the couch to enjoy a glass of wine and we are not in the mood to cook? The answer is one and very specific: We prepare a platter! In short, place various goodies on a platter and create a delicious board in no time. But like all things, assembling a platter needs preparation. In the following lines, we will go through everything together, while -at the same time- we will assemble 4 unique platters that will catch everyone’s attention!
Let’s start with the basics…
Which are they? Supplies, of course. So, stock your fridge and cupboards with the essentials in order to keep them…handy. Whether it is a cheese or deli platter, it is important to get your raw materials (i.e., cheeses and cold cuts) from a store that you know and trust so that you can be sure of the products’ quality. So far so good. But what could we use to assemble our platter? The list is really endless and has to do with the kind of platter you want to create. Do you want it to be mixed? To have only cheeses or cold cuts? To be a seafood platter? Vegetarian or vegan? Or would you like the idea of a…dessert platter? Of course, you can think differently and assemble your platter inspired by some cuisine, e.g. a Greek or Mediterranean platter, an Italian platter, a Mexican platter, and so on. Whatever you choose, one thing is for sure: There are some basic elements to keep in mind…
- The cheese. 3 to 5 types of cheese are enough for your platter. The cheeses you will choose can be of different types and textures. Depending on their taste, they should be combined with some sauces which should also have different flavors - and even the opposite of those of cheeses. A salty cheese, for example, needs a jam or a sweeter chutney next to it…
- The cold cuts. Different cuts, different types, simple or enhanced with herbs or spices. Prosciutto, salami, and mortadella are undoubtedly some good choices. You can find them all in countless variations, so all you have to do is to choose the ones that suit both your and your guests’ tastes.
- The vegetables. The alternatives you have are -truly- countless. I will mention only a few of them here. So, keep the classic vegetables in the back of your mind - cucumber, carrot, and celery - and add the sun-dried tomatoes, olives, and pickles.
- The dips. A homemade hummus, a jam, a handmade chutney, even a little honey are some of the choices you have. To these, of course, you can add countless sauces and spreads that will enhance both the taste and the appearance of your platter.
- The…baked goods. I’m referring, of course, to breadsticks, crackers, even a sourdough bread, a stuffed bread with cheese or enriched with nuts, or some pitas. All these can boost your platter and match perfectly with the other elements that assemble it.
- The "extra" element. What can it be? Some fruits - fresh or dried -, nuts, even some cereal bars are a few of the extra elements that could go with many different flavors and fit in any platter. In these, you can even add the eggs.
- The…surprises. What could be a surprise on a platter of cheese, cold cuts, and vegetables? The warm element, I’ll answer you. This would undoubtedly be a pleasant surprise for your guests. Your choices? Some vegetables that you could not (or would not like) to serve raw such as eggplants, zucchini, peppers, and mushrooms. Some mini pies, phyllo cups, or other warm appetizers such as meatballs or croquettes (not that you cannot eat all of them cold…).
Time to assemble…
You got your raw materials and it is time to assemble your platter… The first question that comes to mind is where you could serve everything you have bought, but also whether it would convenient to prepare a large platter or to assemble smaller ones. The answer to the last question depends exclusively on the number of your guests, but also on whether you will serve your platter as an appetizer or it will be a platter that will… fill you up and keep you company throughout the evening. In any case, enrich your platter accordingly, making sure not to load it from the beginning with whatever there is in your refrigerator. Your goal should be to assemble a… puzzle which could -for example- be divided into…categories according to your raw materials. So, you can place your cheeses, cold cuts, and vegetables on the sides, and your sauces in the center. Another idea would be to create a platter divided into zones according to the color of your materials. Whatever you choose to do, one thing is certain: You will need a “base” to build your platter on. This could be a glass or ceramic platter, or - even better - an impressive cutting or serving board.
Now, as to when you should start preparing your platter… Just before your guests arrive, on the condition that you have taken the cheeses out of the fridge a little earlier (30-40 minutes is enough) so that they will be at room temperature when you serve them, as this enhances their taste even more. Once you take them out, you can cut them into irregular pieces (if you want to give a more…rustic touch to your platter) or into sticks (if you like them more… geometrical) so that your guests can create small bites.
Let’s get to the point…
In the following lines, I have prepared 4 different platters for every taste. They are simple, easy to assemble, and perfect for any occasion. What do you think, shall we go see them one by one?
#1 The mixed platter
This is always a winning combination. Why? Because it has everything! From cold cuts and cheeses, to vegetables and fruits, spreads, breadsticks, and many more that can cater to all tastes and eating habits. In addition, here we can find many different textures, as well as wonderful colors which create an even more impressive result.
#2 The Christmas platter
It is basically a mixed platter with various elements (such as rocket leaves, cherry tomatoes, olives, pomegranate seeds, prosciutto, and radish) which are placed in such a way as to assemble a festive pattern - such as a wreath! The secret here is not so much in the materials we will use, as in the way we will decorate them on our platter. Of course, we could create many different festive patterns or, simply, use a very festive platter as a background to the food assembled on it.
#3 The vegetarian platter
The main elements, in this case, are fruits and vegetables, while spreads -such as hummus- and dips -such as olive paste- are also present. Nuts and dried fruits follow, as do cheeses which - if we wanted to make a strictly vegan platter- would be absent, or would give way to some vegan versions of cheese as are the cold cuts in this case.
#4 The dessert platter
Cookies, candies, wafers, fruits, jams, pastries, spoon sweets, sweet spreads, even a fondue are just some of the things we can use to create this… decadent platter. Of course, this is a small sample, since basically any mini-sized dessert we can imagine can fit here. Well, isn't it wonderful?
And like that, a long - but enjoyable! – blog post comes to an end. If you decide to assemble your own platter at some point, take a photo and send it to me. It is truly unbelievable how many possibilities an empty platter gives us… We could say that it is a white canvas on which we can create our own… savory or… sweet work of art!