Sara Goes Savory: Summer Charcuterie

photo by  Sarah Cooper  

photo by Sarah Cooper 

Freshen up your charcuterie game! Summer is here, and beautiful fruits and vegetables can make a great addition to a traditional board. Here, I'll share recipes for an herbed ranch dressing that will be amazing with your crudités, show you how to make butter dipped radishes, and create a blackberry jalapeño jam that goes great with cheese. You'll also find tips on picking complementary meats and cheeses!

Summer Charcuterie

Texas summer means many months with temperatures in the 100s from mid-April to late September, which I sometimes refer to as literal hell. While I grew up in Texas, I'm much more into sweaters than shorts, and would really rather hang out by a fireplace than by the pool. But as a food lover, summer in Texas means beautiful fruits and vegetables! Down here we have an abundance of incredible Texan and Mexican produce, so this is the best time to create fun dishes that require very little stove-time.

For me, charcuterie is a go-to meal throughout the year. I always have wedges of cheese & cured sausages on hand for snacking, or a quick meal. You'll find jars of homemade mustards or compote in my fridge and bits of artisan bread in the freezer (it just needs a quick blast in the oven to revive it to its former glory!) I love discovering pleasing flavor combinations, and playing with texture. In the summertime, berries, tomatoes, radishes and peppers can make your next board even more beautiful and delicious. 

Picking & Prepping Pretty Produce

For your board you'll need 3-5 vegetables (consider the following):

  • baby heirloom tomatoes 
  • mini bell peppers
  • watermelon radish
  • purple cauliflower florets 
  • green onions
  • tri-colored carrots 

Spring for heirloom varietals & pick colorful veggies!  We often forget we eat with our eyes, and when a vegetable looks pretty, you're more likely to eat it. Keep in mind meats and cheeses are accompanying your produce, so bite-size is better! Slice, quarter & half larger veggies to make for a more pleasant eating experience. Cut mini bell peppers length-wise & deseed them. These will make the perfect little vessels to scoop up the herbed ranch. 

Herbed Ranch Dressing

  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise (I'm a Hellman's girl, but I won't fight Duke's die-hards)
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 2 tablespoons milk
  • one clove of garlic
  • 1/2 cup of chopped herbs: dill, parsley, cilantro, tarragon or chives all work
  • the squeeze of half a lemon 
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • salt and pepper 

This is a terribly easy recipe. Throw all your ingredients into a food processor & blitz until combined! Add your salt and pepper to taste. If you add your herbs in with all the ingredients, you should get a lovely green color. If you'd prefer a white ranch, adding your herbs after will produce equally delicious results. 

Blackberry Jalapeño Compote

  • one pint blackberries 
  • 1/2 jalapeño (deveined & deseeded, or keep the seeds if you really like spicy!)
  • one tablespoon sugar 
  • one tablespoon lemon juice 
  • 1/2 cup of water

Add all ingredients into a sauce pot, and bring to a simmer for ten minutes on low heat, stirring frequently. At this point, the fruit should start to break down, and coat the spoon like a thick syrup. Cook until most of the water has evaporated, and the contents of the pot are of a jam-like consistency. 

Butter-Dipped Radishes

  • one bunch breakfast radishes (if you can't find them, red radish is also delicious)
  • any good European butter (I like Plugrá!)
  • sea salt
  • espelette or pink peppercorn

You should clean your radishes well, and make sure they are cold & dry before dipping to ensure the butter sticks. The key to this recipe is to achieve the perfect consistency of melted butter before you dip the radishes. I honestly hesitate to call it melted, which conjures up images of a golden translucent liquid.  Translucent butter is not what you're after in this recipe. The butter should still be opaque when you dip, almost the consistency of melted chocolate.  You can achieve this best by heating the butter in the microwave for 20 seconds, and then using a whisk to get a silky opaque liquid. Dip & place the radishes one by one onto a pan lined with parchment paper, and sprinkle with the sea salt & pepper. Chill for at least 30 minutes while you assemble your charcuterie board. 

Meats, Cheeses & Accoutrements

  • Délice de Bourgogne, Gruyere, Bleu d'Auvergne
  • Chorizo Ibérico, Prosciutto, Nduja 
  • Mustard
  • Honeycomb 
  • Quince paste 
  • Fresh berries 
  • Spicy nuts

A good rule of thumb for serving charcuterie is offering 2 ounces of meat and cheese combined per person. An easy way to accomplish variety for your board is to pick a hard cheese, a soft cheese, and a bleu cheese. Go-tos for me are creamy Délice de Bourgogne, a type of brie, nutty Gruyere, and Bleu d'Auvergne which isn't too stinky and has a nice spreadable texture. Crowd-pleasers for meat are Chorizo Ibérico a smoky hard sausage, a nice aged prosciutto, and ndjua, a spreadable Italian salami. Pair these with a variety of sweet and salty items like mustards, honey, berries & spiced nuts.