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Cheese platter 101
If you are preparing a cheese tray, you will want both soft and hard cheeses which will run from mild and mellow tasting ones to the stronger more pungent flavored cheeses.
For an attractive appetizer or dessert tray, you should use four to six cheeses, planning on about 2 to 3 ounces per guest. The cheese should be served at room temperature and unwrap the cheese just before serving it so it doesn’t dry out. You may want to arrange them in the order of hardness. Serve with a variety of breads, crackers and fruits.
Here’s a rundown of certain cheeses:
Fresh: These cheeses don’t have rinds. Examples are goat cheese, fresh mozzarella, ricotta, feta and cream cheese.
Semi-soft: A little firmer than fresh. Look for Gouda, Queso Asadero, Limburger, provolone, Havarti and Monterey Jack.
Semi hard: Look for Cheddar, Edam Beaufort, Cheshire and Gruyere. They can be grated fairly easily.
Hard cheeses: Cheese like Parmesan, sapsago and aged Asiago are popular and easy to find.
Washed rind: Cheeses like taleggio, Limburger and Muenster have been washed or rested in salty brine mixture. The brine creates an edible rind and protects the soft or semi-soft interior.
Bloom rind: These cheeses have a soft sort of pliable rind on the outside. Brie and Camembert are the two best known and most people ignore the rind and eat the softer inside.
Blue: The strongest flavor and smell of the cheese. Stilton and Maytag Blue, Saga Blue, Roquefort and Gorgonzola are usually readily available.

Cheeses please all palates at your party

How good (or bad) a party is is often defined by the food you serve, as well as the company you invite. The people I can’t help you with, but as for the food, you might want to consider serving cheeses as part of the appetizers and possibly even the desserts.

Cheese is easy to serve and by getting a wide variety you’ll be able to tempt the palate of just about everyone. Forget about the cheddar you use for mac and cheese and the mozzarella you top your pizza with. Open your mind (and wallet) to cheeses from around the world.

The following appetizer recipes will allow you to add just enough other ingredients to keep the cheeses front and center.

Pull Apart Cheese Sticks

1 (11 ounce) can breadstick dough

1 1/2 cups shredded mozzarella, provolone or smoky Gouda

1/2 teaspoon dried basil

1/2 teaspoon oregano

2 cups marinara sauce (heated)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Place parchment paper on a baking sheet. Arrange the breadstick dough in single layer lengthwise on the parchment paper but don’t separate the dough into individual breadsticks. Sprinkle the cheese, basil and oregano over the top of the dough. Bake 10 to 11 minutes or until cheese is lightly browned. Remove the breadsticks from the oven. Let the breadsticks cool on the cookie sheet for a few minutes. Pull apart the breadsticks and serve them with the heated marinara sauce. Makes 12. This recipe can be doubled or tripled.

Pecan Brie

1 (2 1/2 pound) round of ripe Brie

2/3 to 1 cup coarsely chopped pecans

2 to 3 tablespoons brown sugar

Preheat oven to broil and place a piece of parchment paper on a cookie sheet. Remove the rind from the top of the cheese. Place the Brie cheese on the prepared baking sheet and sprinkle the chopped pecans over on the top. Sprinkle the brown sugar on top of the pecans. Broil the coated cheese about 8 inches from broiler for 3 to 5 minutes until sugar starts bubbling. Serve immediately. Serves 12 to 14.

Note: As an attractive alternative you can substitute raspberry jam for the brown sugar.

Slice of Life is a food column that offers recipes, cooking advice and information on new food products. It appears Sundays. If you have a question about cooking or a food item, contact Eileen Goltz at ztlog@frontier.com or write The Journal Gazette, 600 W. Main St., Fort Wayne, IN 46802.

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