The temperature soared well over 100 degrees during France’s sweltering summer heatwave of 2019 as my husband, our three friends and I took a road trip from Paris to Lyon for the Women’s World Cup.
We were all from Florida, so the heat didn’t dampen our enjoyment in the Burgundian sun, but the desire for shade and the beloved air conditioning meant plenty of French staples – hearty stews with complex sauces , roast meats with heavy cream sauces – just weren’t on the menu.
Instead, we opted for refreshing salads, chilled beef tartare and plenty of charcuterie boards brimming with juicy summer fruits, crisp vegetables, thinly sliced meats and lighter cheeses. Plus, bottles and bottles of cold rosé.
A year later, at a scorching Memorial Day pool party, I recreated our favorite board from a little cafe along the vineyard-lined Route des Grands Crus, brimming with ruby-red heirloom tomatoes, pickles, sweet corn kernels, milky burrata and prosciutto and sopressata slices.
Madeline Kuhn, research and development specialist and cheese maker for Roth Cheese, said I was well on my way to the perfect summer pasture board. “I’m often tempted to skip cooking a meal in the summer months in favor of no-heat, cool, but filling options,” she told Yahoo Life. “A cheese platter is perfect for fueling these warm-weather activities. The key is to pack it with crunch, the right cheeses, and plenty of nutrient-dense sides to make it a meal.”
Think fresh, light, spreadable and seasonal
Kuhn says cheese is seasonal, even though we don’t think of it that way. Winter cheeses are denser, fuller-bodied and generally more mature, while summer cheeses are younger, fresher and “vivacious” on the palate. For a summer plank, “focus on anything spreadable, scoopable, sweet and milky,” she says. “Any cheese that amplifies the grassy notes of lush pastures is a good choice.”
A goat — a fresh goat’s cheese — is a quintessential inclusion, Kuhn says, noting that she likes to roll hers in chopped fresh herbs and serve it with milder cow’s milk cheeses spiked with dill or jalapenos. which work well with cherry tomatoes, cucumbers and sweet pepper. Blue cheeses may not be your first thought for summer, but they pair beautifully with stone fruits, melon and strawberries, which Kuhn calls the “gems” of summer.
Chef Adrianne Calvo, chef-owner of Chef Adrianne’s Vineyard Restaurant and Bar in Miami, Florida, says she loves a quick pickle on her summer boards, like carrots or green beans. She also opts for fresh cherries, watermelon – which pairs perfectly with feta – and peaches, as well as Marcona almonds and dried mango.
For meats, Evan Topel, a business chef for Emmi Roth, says adding local specialty sausages unique to your region of the world can bring a signature element to a summer plank. For example, in Wisconsin, they like to add cooked, sliced brat sausage to the board. Calvo agrees, adding spicy capicola and prosciutto to his summer favorites.
5 tips to keep your board cool — and safely — when temperatures rise
Serving a charcuterie board outdoors when the heat index is way above comfortable is tricky, but with a little preparation, you can keep your board fresh and delicious for a few hours. Topel has these tips and tricks for keeping things cool when temperatures are anything but.
Keep your plank indoors until ready to serve to help prevent your cheese from sweating or melting. When serving your board, keep it in the shade and out of direct sunlight.
Consider serving on a marble slab, which has a naturally cool temperature. Many retailers sell marble charcuterie and cheese boards that won’t break the bank.
Use more aged cheeses instead of fresh. Ripened cheeses tend to be firmer and hold up to warmer temperatures a bit better.
Serve cheeses whole, chilled in blocks or wheels — uncut — until ready to serve. Then have your guests slice the wedge themselves. A large block of cheese will stay fresh longer than thin slices.
Remember to put your charcuterie board on ice. Fill a plastic or metal tub with ice and place your board on it. Just be careful of melting ice and moving your board so your meats and cheeses don’t get wet.
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