A Kinder Cheeseboard
By Mary Bishop
With Valentine’s Day right around the corner, kind-hearted souls everywhere are searching for unique and thoughtful expressions of love. While fruit bouquets are always welcome, just imagine your loved one going gaga over a plant-based cheeseboard curated with love!
While most traditional charcuterie boards are anchored by cured meats and dairy cheeses, a plant-based board offers a world of kindness and flavor without salami or prosciutto, brie, or bleu. Any passionate plant-based eater knows that this type of gesture has posed a real challenge in the past. Only years ago, a vegan cheeseboard often amounted to a few slices of Daiya and perhaps maple syrup-drizzled Tofutti. Happily, those dark days are a thing of the past. The boards that can now be created with the items below can not only be an expression of love but of art.
Cheers to cheese, love, and kindness this Valentine’s Day.
What you’ll need:
You’ve come a long way, baby! Vegan cheese choices are bursting onto the grocery scene, and no one is more thankful. Since the selections will be the main feature of our board, our goal is variety in both textures and flavors. Pair a few homemade selections (much easier than you think) with a few store-bought for diversity.
Soft: Miyoko’s Double Chive Cheese Wheel; Miyoko’s Cheers to Cheddah Roadhouse Cheese Spread
Firm: Violife Parmesan
Warm: Baked Mozzarella (recipe below)
Spread: Herbed Ricotta (recipe below)
The all-important cracker crunch. The hearty, please-help-soak-up-some-of-this-wine crusty bread. While the importance of these accompaniments is often overlooked, playing second or third fiddle to its more colorful platter partners, they are fundamental to rounding out the texture of your board. Pay them mind.
Crostini: Unpretentious and underrated. Simply slice a freshly baked baguette and watch your board come alive with possibilities.
Crackers: Mary’s Gone Crackers hits the trifecta of crackers: sturdy, hearty, and crunchy. Pretzel crisps, particularly paired with Miyoko’s Cheers to Cheddah Roadhouse Cheese Spread, present a nice ‘n’ salty, much-needed crispy crunch. Feel free to integrate mainstream “accidentally” vegan crackers as well. Wheat Thins and Ritz are my go-to and are sure to please a crowd.
Breadsticks: Easily found at most grocers, these pencil-sized sticks lend crispness and height. Integrate those with sesame seeds or Italian herbs for even more flavor-forward options.
Jams and preserves are the perfect way to integrate local flavors. Tart cherry preserves from Michigan or Bourbon peach marmalade from Georgia, for instance. No local favs? Fig jam is tried, true, and super tasty. Pear or plum preserves are other solid options that balance well with the cheeses listed above. Consider dried figs for a natural sugary complement or dried apricots for a slightly more diabetic-friendly option.
While olives are often deemed a staple, mixing a variety of savory delights can bring real personality to your board. Marinated mushrooms, pickled onions, and roasted garlic are some easy homemade favorites that pair with nearly everything! Store-bought items like marinated artichokes or sundried tomatoes, Marcona almonds or roasted cashews, and hearty mustards (stone ground, spicy, or my new fav – blueberry mustard) can round out your offering with ease. Just make sure you take a peek at the ingredients to ensure they are indeed vegan-friendly.
Well-selected fresh fruits and veg bring color and life to your cheeseboard. Classic choices include grapes, sliced apples, and pears. Don’t underestimate the power of a berry medley – blackberries and raspberries can amp up the flavor and color palette. Fresh stemmed cherries dotting your board can bring a glossy, unique texture. And don’t forget a few well-placed veggies. Opt for cucumber wedges to provide a mellow and juicy balance to all of these gorgeous flavors.
Putting it all together:
Just a few simple guidelines will help your board come together easily and beautifully.
1. Pick a nice board or platter for the presentation. Consider going darker to make the light-colored cheeses pop a bit more.
2. Assemble the board wherever it will be served. (No one wants to chase a rogue grape!)
3. Placement is not about symmetry; it’s about balance and flow. Start with cheeses, the real star of the show, and then build from there: place anything in its own dish (jams, mustards, mushrooms, onions, etc.), then carbs, then fruits and nuts.
4. Don’t be afraid if things overlap or touch. That’s actually the preferred look! It makes the board appear both harmonious and lively.
5. A little garnish (fresh herbs or greens) can really jazz up the visual of your board while stealthily helping you fill any holes.
- 1 sheet frozen puff pastry, thawed (We used Pepperidge Farms)
- ¼ cup raspberry jam
- 1 package of Miyoko’s vegan mozz
- 1 T water
- 3 pears or apples, sliced
- Preheat oven to 400°F.
- Roll out puff pastry. Place on parchment paper-lined baking sheet.
- Spread jam in the center of the pastry (just in the center, no need to aim for the edges).
- Place the cheese wheel on top of the jam.
- Fold up the corners of the pastry. Attempt to pinch some sort of a seal. Don’t worry if this doesn’t look perfect, and you may actually prefer the blossoming flower look that an imperfect seal will create.
- Brush the top with water.
- Bake for 20-25 minutes until the pastry is golden brown.
- Enjoy with sliced pears or apples.
- ½ cup raw cashews, soaked overnight (or for 1 hour in continuously hot water)
- ½ block firm tofu, pressed
- 2 T water
- 1 t white vinegar
- 2 T lemon juice
- zest from ½ lemon
- 2 t nutritional yeast
- 2 t garlic, minced
- ½ t oregano
- ¼ t salt
- ¼ t pepper
- 5 T fresh basil, loosely chopped
- 3 T fresh chives, loosely chopped
- 3 T fresh parsley, loosely chopped
- Drain tofu. Press tofu (to remove excess water) in a tofu press. No press? No problem. Simply wrap the tofu block in paper towels. Press on all sides of the tofu, changing paper towels as needed until they are no longer leaching water from the tofu. (No need to maintain the block shape, so feel free to use some muscle here.)
- Pulse cashews and pressed tofu in a high-speed blender. Add vinegar, lemon juice, zest, nutritional yeast, and garlic in the water. Pulse once again until the mixture is thick and creamy. Add in herbs a handful at a time, then blend. Repeat until all herbs are incorporated. Add in salt, pepper, and oregano. Pulse one final time to blend.
- Serve as a fresh, lively dip (or even as a spread on your favorite sandwich).
The Vegan Mary is a plant-based food consultant and writer based in metro Detroit, specializing in advocating and educating on all things vegan. Learn more at www.theveganmary.co, Instagram: @the.veganmary or Facebook: @therealveganmary