Thursday, January 29, 2009

Barefoot Bloggers: Cheese Platter

This is it! My first Barefoot Bloggers post. I've enjoyed cooking from the Barefoot Contessa cookbooks for years - ever since my dear friend, Robin, gave me the first one for Christmas the year it came out. Of course, the best part was she also gave me a big batch of Ina's Outrageous Brownies and another of Pecan Squares. I couldn't believe how good they were - and I've been a Barefoot Contessa fan ever since.

So now, I've finally taken the plunge and joined the Barefoot Bloggers. Twice a month, I'll be preparing one of Ina's recipes chosen by one of the members. Then I'll be sharing the recipes and pictures with you, here on my blog. To see what the Barefoot Bloggers have prepared during the past year, take a look at the website.

The best part for me is knowing I'll be making - and eating! - at least two Ina recipes a month AND I'll get to enjoy eating them - after the photo shoot, of course! MFH (my favorite husband) is very excited by this happy turn of events.

For you, there is also a benefit. If you're not familiar with Ina from her Food Network show or her cookbooks, you'll be able to follow along with me and see why I enjoy her recipes so much. My guess is, you will want to make many of them for yourself. Ina has a gift for devising simple, elegant versions of classic dishes. After years of catering from her Barefoot Contessa shop in the Hamptons, she knows how to streamline recipes so they are geared to entertaining in a simple and casual way that suits our busy lives.

This month, for my first BB event, I've created a simple Cheese Platter for Valentine's Day, following Ina's guidelines for combining cheeses and pairing them with fruits and nuts to enhance all the flavors. I also paired my cheeses with a yummy Penfolds Grandfather Port, which was a gift from my favorite wine expert, my brother Jeff. If you love good cheeses and want to take your experience to the next level, enjoy it with a glass of good port and you'll be in love, for sure.

For my platter, I chose a French wicker tray and arranged it with Maytag Blue cheese, Spanish Manchego, a soft Chevre, Brie, and a wedge from a Moultonborough country store wheel of Cheddar, a delicious Christmas gift from my friend, Sally, in New Hampshire. The first of the Florida February fragrant strawberries are in my local market, so I had to have those with my cheeses. Then I candied some walnut halves, added some sweet fresh raspberries, and some absolutely incredible organic Medjool dates. The whole platter came together nicely on the round wicker tray, lined with paper grape leaves - sorry Ina, no fresh green leaves around my neck of the woods in January. The little heart-shaped plates were a gift from my friend, Debbie, and I served Jeff's port in some Riedel port glasses. The cheese knives and grape shears are some I picked up on a trip to Sonoma, just knowing there was a beautiful cheese platter in my future.

I just love how everything came together so easily - just like Ina said it would - and I think it would make a lovely finale for a Valentine dinner for your sweetheart, or a casual dinner for some very dear friends.

Thanks to the Barefoot Contessa for encouraging us to arrange simple foods in a beautiful way and share them with those we love to spend time with - on Valentine's Day and everyday. I can't wait until our next Barefoot Contessa recipe!


Becky said...

Cora, your cheese platter is gorgeous. I love your selection of cheeses and the Valentine theme.

One of the nicest things about this BB recipe for me is that it has given me so many new ideas about serving cheeses. We do it so often that I think I've gotten into a boring rut. I'm already thinking about how I can use the Valentine idea here.

Thanks for joining Barefoot Bloggers!

Cora said...

Becky, you are so kind. I really enjoyed doing this cheese tray and I even inspired myself with a few other ideas. I've been surfing around to see what others have done too. This is fun!

Anonymous said...

Welcome to the group! I can see Ina serving your cheese platter. Gorgeous, romantic, perfect for an indoor Valentine's picnic with Jeffrey. ;)

Candy said...

I love that you used a basket and the romantic, French-picnic feel of your platter. Beautiful!

Remember the Alamode said...

Cora it is bee-u-tee-ful. I have often looked at the picture of Ina's cheese platter and admired its simple beauty. I'd like to try something like this soon.

Maris said...

What a great cheese plate - it looks like you have a little bit of everything on there and presented so nicely!

Anonymous said...

Very pretty platter! I bought some of those delicious organic Medjool dates too, but I had eaten them all before cheese platter time.