The Cooking-Required Cheese Plate

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One of the merits of pulling together a cheese plate for any and all hosting occasions is that you immediately reduce your workload. Instead of cooking prowess, cheese plate-making calls upon skills like chatting up your cheesemonger to get a great recommendation and artistically arranging cheese wedges and rounds, crackers, fruit, and knives on a board. This is well and good.

But what if you do want to cook? What if you’re contributing the cheese plate or hosting a cocktail gathering at which everything is already quite simple? Well, for you, we’ve got a prescription for the cooking-required cheese plate. These are three recipes that, while, simple, also take your creative instincts and harness them to craft a great spread.

Up above, you can see the regular cheese plate. There’s a hunk of Parmesan and a wedge of Manchego. We’ve got a bowl of fresh ricotta, plenty of pita chips for dipping, and dates for some complementary sweetness.

Now, let the tweaking begin. Here are three ways to transform those cheeses into somethign more.

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1. Braided Cheese Straws:

Defrost a box of puff pastry. Preheat the oven to 400°F. In a medium bowl whisk together 2 eggs and 1 tablespoon of milk. Lay 1 sheet of the defrosted pastry out on a work surface, brush with the egg wash and sprinkle with 2 cups of grated Parmesan cheese; season with a little salt and pepper. Brush the other defrosted sheet with egg wash and lay it on top of the layer of Parmesan. Cut into 1-inch strips lengthwise, place on a baking sheet and twist each strip slightly. Bake for 15 minutes, until puffy and golden.  Enjoy!

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2. Manchego & Marcona Stuffed Dates:

Fill pitted dates with a small piece of manchego and a marcona almond. Arrange artfully and enjoy!

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3. Ricotta, Honey & Sea Salt Crostini:

Preheat the oven to 400°F. Cut a baguette into thin rounds; toss with olive oil, salt and pepper and toast in the oven, 10 minutes, or until toasty and golen. Top each round with a tablespoon of ricotta; drizzle with honey and sprinkle with sea salt. Enjoy!

And here it is, the totally transformed cheese plate:

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