Build The Perfect Snack Board, Even Without Cheese

Photo: Claire Lower

When it comes to food-focused boards, cheese and/or charcuterie are usually the star. I love both of these things, but they don't have to be the focal point of a snack board, especially when there are so many other types of snacks.

The Anatomy Of A Perfect Cheese Board

Video. Crafting a good cheese plate, board or platter is all about balance. Beyond a variety of cheeses, you need sweet and salty accompaniments to highlight and contrast the funky, creamy, savoury qualities of the dairy.

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According to GOOP (I know, I never thought I'd write that either), the German version of this board is called a "vesper board," and it's comprised of "a feast of small bites that spares the host the heat of the kitchen and affords more time for aperitif sipping." (Sidebar: Did you know that "GOOP" stands for "Gwyneth Orson Welles Orson Welles Paltrow?" This is fact and not something I made up.)

Does this mean you can't put meat or cheese on this board? Of course not. Creating such a vesper board isn't about adhering to a strict set of rules, it's about a paradigm shift. When you quit focusing on charcuterie and fancy cheeses, two things happen.

First, you get much more creative with your snacks. Second, you end up eating a lot more pickles. Instead of thinking "would pickled onions go good with this cheese?" one thinks "what creamy thing would play well with these pickled onions?"

Use Beer To Pickle Your Vegetables

You're most likely already aware that beer makes a great deglazing liquid, but you may not be familiar with its pickling prowess. Using it to season and preserve vegetables is a great way to use up any beer you may not feel like drinking. (Just kidding. I know you guys always feel like drinking all the beer, but these pickles really are good.)

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As with any board, creating a vesper board is about balance. You want to hit salty, sweet, sour, and spicy, and you want to provide some delivery systems for getting the salty, sweet, sour, and spicy things to your mouth. If you can't think outside of the meat and cheese box, don't fret, I have suggestions:

  • Potato chips with creme fraiche and caviar

  • Endive with a dollop of blue cheese spread

  • Pickled or devilled eggs

  • Spring onions, tossed with bacon vinaigrette and broiled

  • Whatever fruit is in season, plus grapes, because grapes are the ultimate snack fruit

  • Dried fruit, particularly figs or dates, smeared with goat cheese and perhaps wrapped in prosciutto

  • All the pickled and marinated vegetables (Start with olives and marinated mushrooms if you're stumped.)

  • Little fish in tins

  • Dolmas (stuffed grape leaves)

  • Radishes with butter and salt

  • Hummus and really good pita

  • Nduja, or this nduja-like spread

  • Labneh, drizzled with olive oil and studded with Kalamata olives

  • Pimento cheese, pub cheese, fromage fort, smoked salmon mousse, or any sort of creamy spread

Surround all your little morsels with your favourite bread, some crackers, and little bowls of seasoned olive oil and vinegar for dipping. Spicy honey is also a good condiment choice. (If you want to throw some prosciutto on there, feel free; I won't tell Gwyneth.)

The Vesper Board Is the New Cheese Board [GOOP]


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