I’m a food gifter. I’ve made holiday gourmet food “baskets” for years. But in today’s world, it’s the “charcuterie board” that has the spotlight. And rightly so. They score a 10 in immediate mouthwatering visual appeal. But think about adding something to a cheese board gift that you won’t find at the store – a few of your own homemade treats. We’re all short of time, but I’ve got five simple little recipes that will make your food gifts special.
It’s fun to build a charcuterie board, and a quick lap around your neighborhood Aldi can equip you with meats, cheeses & nibbles for the job. The same can be said for a visit to Trader Joe’s. A serious board artisan, however, will swoon at the incredible choices & quality of accoutrements found at Jungle Jim’s International Market, Cincinnati’s “food theme park”, or Louisville’s Lotsa Pasta, a boutique international food shop. I love them all. I shop them all!
The problem with a charcuterie board for this gifter is wrapping & transporting the beautifully presented goods without ending up with a drippy mess on delivery. Rivers of olive oil & honey, nuts & olives run amuck. So for me, it’s better to attractively gift the assembled components rather than the finished product. Sounds like I’m back to baskets! LOL
For practicality, I’ve deconstructed the “complete” cheese board into the “charcuterie kit” – which can be as large or small, complex or simple, as you want. Consider adding in a few tiny bowls, a vintage spoon, or a spreader or cheese knife to an assortment of nibbles. Or keep it simple and choose one homemade food gift to go with a nice purchased wooden board or vintage platter to make the total effect.
For me, including something handcrafted from my kitchen is my way of making a food gift a more personal. Here are five quick & simple recipes that make great additions to a charcuterie board and include treats for gluten-free and vegetarian preferences.
A buttery sweet nut is a beautiful thing. These candied pecans are a decadent snack by themselves, but I also use them in a spring mix salad with fresh pears and as a sweet crunch on pumpkin pie with topped whipped cream. On the charcuterie board, I think they pair especially well with cheeses like Jarlsberg and Stilton. They can really stand up to the stronger flavors. And they are amazing alongside a juicy fresh pear. Rather than double or triple the recipe, I make multiple batches so I can have adequate pan surface area and better control the melting sugar to prevent burning. But don’t be intimidated – it’s a very easy process and only takes about 5 minutes! To gift, I pack the nuts in a canning jar or small decorative tin.
- 3 Tbsp butter
- 1/2 Cup granulated sugar
- 1 1/2 Cups pecan halves
- Line baking sheet with non-stick aluminum foil and set aside.
- In a heavy skillet or sauté pan, melt butter over medium heat; stir in pecans and sugar. Cook over medium-low heat , stirring constantly, 4 to 5 minutes or until sugar melts and turns golden brown.
- Remove skillet from heat. Spread pecan mixture onto prepared baking sheet.
- Cool completely. Break apart mixture into small pieces. Store in airtight container.
Everything Bagel Seasoning Shortcut Goat Cheese
Talk about an easy recipe – this is it! I usually double or triple the seasoning recipe so I can always have it on the shelf since I think it works well on pretty much anything. I love it sprinkled over a poached egg with slices of avocado on a slice of crusty toasted sourdough. A quick roll of a goat cheese log (or small balls) through the “everything” seasoning makes a flavorful soft cheese choice for the charcuterie board. To gift, wrap tightly in cling wrap and refrigerate until serving or presenting.
Everything Bagel Seasoning
- 1 Tbsp sesame seeds
- 1 Tbsp dried minced garlic
- 1 Tbsp poppy seeds
- 1 Tbsp dried minced onion
- 1 Tbsp kosher salt
- Blend all the seeds and seasonings and store in an airtight container.
There are a lot of olive varieties out there, and you can get adventurous with your selections for this recipe. I prefer using pitted olives to avoid dealing with discarding those pesky pits when snacking in a social setting. That does, however, limit the breadth of pitless olive choices, but it seems a considerate choice if the olives will be gifted! On the charcuterie board, these herbed olives are a tangy savory that is perfect alongside rich meats like salami or the more mellow cheeses. If you can blend and stir, you have all the skills you need for this!
- 3-5 Jars/cans olives of your choice
- 1/4 Cup red wine vinegar
- 1 Cup Extra virgin olive oil
- 3 1/2 Tsp chopped garlic
- 1 Tbsp dried dill
- 1/2 Tsp red pepper lakes
- 1/4 Tsp coarsely ground ppper
- 1 Tbsp dried oregano
- 1/2 Tsp salt
- Place all olives into a strainer to drain.
- Process remaining ingredients until we’ll blended, about 20-30 seconds.
- Add olives and dressing to a bowl and stir to coat. (Portion into smaller jars/containers for gift portions.) Cover and refrigerate for 2 days to enhance flavors.
- To serve, bring to room temperature in advance so that any congealed oil from refrigeration will liquify.
Parmesan Cracker Crisps
These super light crispy crackers are addictive. They’re thin, so they work better on the cheese board as more of a “breadstick” than a spreadable cracker. Frankly, with a bag of these little crackers and a small jar of the herbed olives, you have a killer combo. The trick with these crackers is to keep a eye on them while they’re baking. Because they’re so thin, they’ll be ready sooner than you think. Don’t pick up your phone and get distracted while making these!
Parmesan Cracker Crisps
- 3/4 Tsp Garlic powder
- 3/4-1 Tsp Dried parsley flakes
- 3/4 Cup Grated Parmesan cheese
- 1 Package Egg roll wrappers (18-20)
- 9 Tbsp Butter, melted
- Salt to taste
- Combine first 3 ingredients.
- Cut each egg roll wrapper into 4-5 lengthwise strips. Arrange strips on parchment-lined baking sheets. Brush strips with melted butter, and sprinkle with cheese mixture.
- Bake at 425 degrees for 6-8 minutes or until edges are light golden brown. Sprinkle lightly with salt.
This was one of my Dad’s favorites. He was a big fruit and nut guy. My Mom was the chocoholic, and she could blaze a fast trail through a bag of Dove dark chocolate candy. These apricots are naturally sweet, crunchy and chocolatey, and they are a terrific treat on the charcuterie board. I store them in a tin or plastic container, but because they’re so pretty, I usually gift them in a clear treat bag.
- 3/4 Cup Finely chopped pistachios
- 1/2 10 oz Package Dark chocolate flavored melting wafers, Ghirardelli preferred
- 1 6 oz Package Dried apricots
- Melt chocolate according to package directions.
- Holding apricots from one end, dip them 1 at a time into the chocolate, turning to coat about 1/2 of the apricot. Use a knife to scrape excess chocolate off the bottom back into bowl. Hold apricot over bowl of pistachios and sprinkle the nuts over both sides of the the lower 1/2 of the chocolate area.
- Put apricot on baking sheet and repeat with remaining apricots. Chill until chocolate is set, about 1 hour. Store in an airtight container between sheets of waxed paper in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.
I hope you’ll try one or more of these no-hassle recipes and add a little taste of “Sally’s Poplar Street Kitchen” to holiday food gifts you make this year. Share the love!