Prep Time: 25 minutes
Cook Time: N/A
Just so we all agree, there’s no bad time for a cheese board, right? Many of us don’t automatically associate the warmer months with cheese, but I’m thinking maybe we should start. There’s no doubt that from October through around March, cheese boards are my go-to way to entertain, and not a weekend goes by without one. Come the warmer months, we are going for more veggies, cool dips and shellfish. But the warmer months are actually a great time for a seasonal cheese board. Summer means cool drinks, and there is no better time for a crisp and citrusy Sauvignon Blanc, a light and refreshing Pinot Grigio or an icy cold beer. Not sure about you, but for me, where there’s wine, there’s got to be cheese. Creating a Summertime Cheese Board like this one is fun and easy, and a great way to celebrate the relaxed, slower-paced summer season.
Choose a few Fresh Cheeses
Any cheese board you make should first consider the flavors and feels of the season. Fresh cheeses like ricotta, burrata and certain goat cheeses are obvious choices. Fresh cheese will have a mild flavor and soft, creamy texture. These are the cheeses you can spread rather than slice. When choosing a ricotta, go with the whole milk version rather than the part skim version. Ricotta is so mild in flavor that without the full fat content it just tastes like water. Drizzle a little honey and fresh cracked pepper over it and spread it on crusty bread – heaven. With burrata, I love to break it open a little and drizzle a syrupy balsamic vinegar over it.
Then there’s goat cheese. The Big Guy is obsessed with goat cheese, the fresh stuff as well as the aged. If it were up to him, the entire Summertime Cheese Board would consist only of various goat cheeses. On this board, we’ve got his favorite fresh goat, Humboldt Fog. It’s rich and spreadable with an amazing tanginess that complements fresh fruits so well. It even has an actual ribbon of edible ash going through it. It doesn’t taste like anything, but it looks pretty cool. Put me on a desert island with a baguette, a wedge of Humboldt Fog and a bunch of green grapes and leave me there forever.
Creamy Havarti – everyone’s favorite
Speaking of green grapes, I don’t think there is a better companion for them than creamy Havarti cheese. Not to be confused with aged Havarti (which is also delicious), creamy Havarti should be renamed and called dreamy Havarti. This is the cheese that when I serve it on a Summertime Cheese Board, it invariably disappears and is consistently asked about, like, “what IS this cheese?” Slice it and serve it with water crackers or melt it on top of mini toasts and top with a sliver of green apple. The best part about creamy Havarti is that it’s not a fancy cheese. You can literally find it in any supermarket. Just don’t forget the green grapes.
Early summer is the time when all of my favorite fruits come into season – berries and cherries. A Summertime Cheese Board just wouldn’t be right without a bounty of them. There’s something so refreshing about the pairing of sweet summer fruit with a luxuriously textured cheese.
Indulge in a Brie
This brings us to the most divine, indulgent cheeses on our Summertime Cheese Board – the Bries. The kinds of Brie you’ll want in the summer are not the Brie you bake in the oven and top with cranberries and walnuts during the holidays (which is awesome in its own right, just not for now). I’m talking Triple Creme Brie – a cheese so smooth, so buttery that it literally melts in your mouth. Honestly, if all you get is one cheese and one fruit for your summer cheese board, make it a Triple Creme Brie and strawberries. Triple Creme is a perfect pairing for chilled Champagne or Prosecco, and is absolutely gorgeous when spread on fresh baguette and topped with fresh berries or swirled with fruit preserves. Look for Epoisses de Bourgogne or Delice de Bourgogne.
Choose a few Semi-Soft Cheeses
A good cheese board should have a balance of flavors and textures, so I like to add one semi-soft or firm cheese onto an Summertime Cheese Board, but preferably not one with too sharp of a flavor. I usually default to an aged goat because it’s just so good, and a real crowd pleaser. An aged goat has a fuller, sharper flavor than a fresh goat cheese has, but is definitely still considered a mild cheese. It is dense enough to be cut into slices or cubes and pairs beautifully with dried apricots, crisp white wines and wheat beers. I really like Midnight Moon for its smoothness.
And while I typically reserve aged Goudas for the cooler months (they’re front and center on both the Harvest Cheese Board and the Holiday Cheese Board), my favorite cheesemonger recently turned me on to a younger Gouda that literally made me swoon. Aged only eight months, Seven Sisters is rustic with a fudge-like texture and notes of caramel. It’s made right here in Pennsylvania on a farmstead not too far from my home. It pairs beautifully with white wines and lighter beers, and doesn’t need much else. I kept finding myself just eating the slices all by themselves, without even a cracker. It’s that good.
When you’re making a Summertime Cheese Board, be sure to include a variety of crackers, toasts and fresh breads along with some seasonal jams (like the sour cherry jam pictured here) and, of course, honey. Always honey. Other than that, there is really no right or wrong about putting together something fabulous for summer. Just have fun with it – keep it light, keep it seasonal, and keep the wine flowing. Enjoy!
Summertime Cheese Board
- 1-2 fresh cheeses ricotta, burrata, fresh goat cheese
- 1-2 semi-soft or firm cheeses creamy Havarti, aged goat cheese
- 1-2 double or triple creme cheeses Delice de Bourgogne, Brie cheese
- seasonal fruits berries, cherries, apricots
- seasonal fruit jams
- fresh baguette water crackers, mini toasts
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