Easiest appetizer ever

Over the weekend we met up with some friends to cheer on California Chrome…womp, womp!  While the thoroughbred came up short, the appetizer I brought to share was certainly a crowd-pleaser.


Living in South Philadelphia, not far from the Italian Market, I’m fortunate to have Di Bruno Brothers at my disposal.  Di Bruno Brothers has been serving up gourmet goodness since 1939 and are well-known for their exceptional cheeses, meats and other Italian specialities.  I picked up a few simple ingredients: marinated mozzarella, roasted red peppers, salami, Roman artichokes, and pitted Kalamata olives – then I got to work!  Simply assemble ingredients on wooden skewers and violà….the easiest appetizer ever!  Easy to pick up and eat, each skewer is exploding with flavor.  And the best part – they can be made in advance and you can easily find all of these ingredients at your local supermarket.

The combinations are endless – here are a few other tasty ingredients to help you customize your skewer:
-Cherry tomatoes
-Artichoke hearts
-Mozzarella (marinated or plain)
-Roasted red peppers
-Tortellini (cooked, chilled and dressed with Italian vinaigrette)
-Italian bread (cubed and drizzled with extra virgin olive oil)
-Sun-dried tomatoes
-Pepperocini peppers


Buon appetito!

How to create a simple, no fuss cheese plate


Let me start with a simple declaration: I love cheese!  Love, love, love it!  I wish there was a word stronger than love to help you understand my relationship with cheese.  I don’t know who invented cheese, but I think they deserve a national holiday!  I love ordering a cheese plate when I’m dining at a restaurant.  Side note: Talula’s Garden in Philadelphia has an entire menu devoted to cheese.  Go there and order the “World Travel – An Illustrious International Collection”.  You can thank me later.

Anyway, needless to say, I love to put together my own cheese plate for small get-togethers or when friends or family visit from out-of-town.  One of my best friend’s from college was visiting the other weekend with her new boyfriend, who I was meeting for the first time, so I knew a simple cheese plate to graze on would be a home run.

To keep it simple, here are a few tips to ensure you create a delicious and delightful spread.

1.  Select a variety of 3 to 5 cheeses.  This can depend on how much money you want to spend and how many people you’re feeding (1 to 3 ounces per person is typically a good rule of thumb).  I like to select cheeses that suits everyone’s palate, so it’s safe to say a blue, a soft, a hard and an aged covers most everyone’s preferences.

2.  Accompaniments are a must!  Jarred condiments such as jam, chutney, honey and mustard are perfect because there’s no fuss!  Honey pairs great with stinky cheeses (such as blue) and jams and chutneys really emphasize the flavor of nutty cheeses (I love fig jam with manchego…delish!).  Be sure to add other accompaniments as well such as bread, crackers, dried fruits, nuts, and please don’t forget the wine!

3.  Serve your cheese on one large board.  You can use slate or wood (a cutting board works great).  Label your cheeses, this way you don’t need to recite each variety over and over again.  I didn’t do this in the above photo, guilty as charged, but it was a small group and a small selection of cheeses.

4.  Set the plate out one hour before serving.  Cheese is best served at room temperature.  Cold cheese is muted and less flavorful.

5.  If you’re crazy enough to have leftover cheese, don’t store it in plastic bags or plastic wrap.  It will last longer and taste fresher if wrapped up in wax paper or parchment paper.