aka cheese board, minus the cheese. Well, there actually is one dip that I would say is cheese-like, but if that doesn’t appeal to you, skip it. I know what you’re thinking, this isn’t a baking post, per say. This is partially because I’m thinking about expanding beyond baking a bit; we’ll see how it goes. Also, this board features lots of what I’ve baked while home, so it’s a good way to apply the recipes. This post will be a little different, but hopefully will show that you can make a MAGNIFICENT board sans meat and cheese.
VARIETY. VARIETY. VARIETY.
In case you didn’t get it, the key to a good board is variety in all ways. The more colors, textures, and flavor profiles you can fit in, the better. I’m going to write out a guide to do this below, but feel free to change it up. The image shown was all stuff we had in the pantry during the pandemic, and it’s pretty standard. You can fancy it up, switch out things you don’t like, give it a theme, or simplify it. All you need is a cutting board, serving tray, and a few ingredients. This one was for a family wine tasting, and my family gave it raving reviews, so here it is.
Things to Serve:
Baked Goods (3-4)
Of course. This may sound intimidating, but in reality this could be as simple as ritz crackers or potato chips. Here I included homemade sourdough crackers, homemade sourdough bread, homemade soft pretzels, mini baguettes, table water crackers, and tortilla crackers. I was only including a small serving of each, so you could obviously do less if you have more of each item. We were in the mood for variety, and as you well know I had a lot on hand.
This is again meant to be a broad term. Relish, olives, sauerkraut, and anything of the sort fall under this. I think this type of flavor, which I can’t really find a name for, is very important. It’s the perfect, and one of the easiest, ways to add some variety to the board. I included homemade pickled vegetables and green olives. Click here for my favorite pickle recipe!
Dips/cheeses (as many as you can swing)
These can be based off your chosen baked goods/vice versa. For example, we were in the mood for guac, so I served tortilla chips. We were also having lots of bread, so I included jam, balsamic vinaigrette, and a “cheesy” almond dip.
This is important for color, and can be a light break from the more heavy baked goods. Anything with a crunch is good, like carrots, cucumbers, peppers, etc. If you’re short on flavor, try adding cooked or marinated vegetables instead of only raw. Make sure you have something hydrating (celery, cucumbers, carrots, etc) if you’re serving anything spicy.
This can replace your sweets, or be a nice addition. Sticking to the theme, they add color and texture. Berries, figs, and apples add a decorative pop. Dried fruits are just as good and pair nicely with a lot of dips.
Great way to add texture and something a little more filling. Try seasoned nuts to add flavor, or stick to raw if you want to give people a pallet cleanser.
Sweets (1-2, unless going for a sweet flavor profile)
Another flavor contrast. You can stick to dried or fresh fruit to do this, but I have a sweet tooth, so I like to add some sort of cookie, maple flavor, or chocolate.
Mostly decorative, but can be sprinkled on different dips. I used fresh rosemary.
How to Serve:
This is meant to be a broad term. You can use something as simple as a large plate. Wood cutting boards are always a good option, as seen in the picture. You can also use serving trays or really anything that keeps the food off the table, just make sure it’s clean. Try working with your color dynamics. f you are working with mostly bread and baked goods, maybe opt for a more colorful dish over a wood cutting board. Also think about your theme, and see if you can get creative with what you use. Choose something that is easy to transport if you plan to bring food to people or move it outside. Mine is just a clean wood cutting board from the local prison store in Maine.
Using small bowls is a good way to serve dip and breaks up the uniformity of the board a little, which can be good. I recommend using different sizes, but use what you have. Color is a personal choice; use the same kind like I did, or mix it up to add more color. Anything messy can be put on a dish to keep the board looking neat. We were going for a theme of using all of my great grandmother’s servingware that night, so they were all different crystal bowls/ glasses.
This is another good way to add some color to a more neutral board. It’s also a good addition if you don’t have a lot of variety in the food. Cocktail napkins can also be fun and practical. In my picture I had a lot going on already, so I didn’t find it necessary, but I do think they are usually very pretty.
Make sure you have something to scoop out/ pick up anything you don’t feel comfortable having people put their hands all over. If you buy a board made for this sort of thing, it probably came with some, or just use teaspoons and whatever you have lying around. We have a couple sets with spreading knives and cocktail forks that matched my wooden board, so I went ahead and used those.
This is mostly a common sense thing. If you know something you are serving is a fan favorite, put more of it on the board. The reverse applies if something is more controversial, or is only used in small amounts. This way you don’t have to worry about restocking everything 8 times, but can fit everything you need to. You don’t want to see too much of the board, so opt for a smaller one or add more of each ingredient if you have a lot of negative space. When placing, evenly disperse bright colored items from more neutral. Get creative by making swirls with ingredients, trying different levels of spacing, or stacking things differently– just have fun with it.
If you haven’t gotten the gist already, the key to personalize as much as possible. You know your guests/style best, so trust that. Try slicing things in unique ways, or try creating an image with your food. Go crazy and add decorations, labels, or even a centerpiece. Click here for the link to my Pinterest board with a lot of my favorite ideas if you need some inspiration.