Last year, I was in the supermarket produce aisle when I saw an abundance of big, juicy, red grapes on a vine. It sparked a childhood memory of Thanksgiving holidays at my grandparent's house. I started telling my friend about how my grandmother used red and purple grapes as the center of a big platter, but when I turned around, my friend wandered off and someone else was standing there listening. He looked at me and smiled, "Sounds good." I smiled back, "It was." While I will never be back at her table again, I can recreate it and share the idea with you. Not only is it an simple addition to any holiday table, grapes have many health benefits ... Now that's a WIN WIN!
My grandmother, Lucy, was the Italian-American version of Martha Stewart. A product of her generation, she was a wife, mother, and homemaker extraordinaire. She knew no boundaries when it came to entertaining. At the time, I never appreciated the amount of preparation and planning it takes to create a feast, be it a large or small gathering. After hosting my own dinner parties, I realize that her fruit and cheese platter appeared every year because it looks great AND it's so EASY to create!
Ingredients for this "no cook" crowd pleaser:
A flat platter or 2 large dishes (one for each end of the table)
Red and Purple Grapes: gently wash and dry, leaving the grapes on their vines but snip the vines into smaller handy bunches for lifting off the platter
Cheese Wedges (pick whatever cheeses your crowd likes, no need to be fancy - go with familiar choices like Gouda or Blue Cheese); one cheese slicer per wedge keeps things neat
Cubed Cheese, e.g., aged swiss, sharp cheddar, provolone, parmigiana (only use up to a maximum of 5 cheese types all together - think $ saving, and platter size)
Shelled Walnut-halves, Whole shelled Almonds
Bread Sticks, Water Crackers (or any crackers you like)
Optional: Dried Fruit - like apricots, figs, cherries, cranberries; Baguette bread, thinly sliced; Sliced Pepperoni (while it's not a healthy item on your platter, the meat lover in the crowd will be happy)
Hors D'Oeuvres Toothpicks (this is also an opportunity to use your fish-forks)
Hors D'Oeuvre Plates
Assembling your items:
Looking down at the platter (bird's eye view), imagine it divided into pie wedge sections; put the toothpicks in a cup in the center or place on the table to the side of the platter(s).
Fill each imaginary section with one item, such as the grapes, cubed cheeses, cheese wedges, crackers, walnuts, almonds, dried fruit, bread slices; randomly place the bread sticks.
TIP: Don't clump everything together, leave space between the sections with a slight overlap for visual appeal.
HELPFUL HINT: Reserve some of each item because when you remove the platter to serve dinner, you can later replenish it to return to the table or buffet after dinner. [This isn't "double dipping" - everyone should be using toothpicks or fish forks.]
Grandma called this a "picking platter" and she was right, everyone likes to pick while they are chatting over a glass of wine before and after dinner. So whether your hosting a dinner party, a holiday extravaganza, or a wine and cheese tasting hour, this fruit and cheese platter is a beautiful, healthy way to put out a plentiful display with very little work. The hardest part may be finding the right platter to fit everything! Enjoy!
BONUS: Planning a dinner party? holiday meal? Try these other better, brighter, easier ideas to help you make your next gathering a smash!