Anatomy of the Perfect Cheese Plate and a Recipe for Dried Fig Jam

The perfect cheese plate is a thing of versatile beauty. A cheese plate is infinitely customizable to your tastes and preferences, and can be put together in under 10 minutes. It can serve as the perfect easy and indulgent dinner on a busy night wrapping gifts and addressing holiday cards and a go-to crowd pleaser while entertaining. While no one is unhappy when grazing on cheese, crackers, and yummy accompaniments, it may be difficult to really know what goes into making the most perfectly balanced, beautiful cheese plate effortlessly every time.  I’ll break it down and share the recipe for my Four Ingredient Dried Fig Jam, which pairs beautifully with lots of varieties including blue cheese, chevre, or brie.

The Cheeses:

The perfect cheese plate will need at least 3 cheeses, and you’ll want to allow about 2 to 3 ounces of cheese total, per person. Use cheeses you know and love, but don’t hesitate to throw in something new; you just might find a new favorite! Choose a variety different flavors and textures, but also include cheeses made from cow’s, goat’s, or sheep’s milk to keep it interesting. If you can, let the cheeses sit out for about an hour before serving. They’re best at room temperature. 

Pick a firm/sliceable cheese such as Parmigiano Reggiano (cow’s milk), goat’s milk cheddar (goat’s milk), manchego – (sheep’s milk), or gruyere (cow’s milk).

Add a triple crème cheese like brie (cow’s milk), camembert (cow’s milk), or robiola (sheep’s milk).

Select a soft or semi-soft cheese such as morbier (cow’s milk), chevre (goat’s milk), feta (sheep’s milk), or a blue cheese like gorgonzola dolce (cow’s milk).

The Accompaniments:

Choose a variety of delicious little bites to pair with your cheeses. A combination of sweet and salty accompaniments let you mix and match flavors with the different cheeses, so you can try something new with every bite! 

One or two starches like a loaf of crusty bread, or some hearty, seeded crackers make the perfect vehicle to get all of the goodies from plate to mouth.

Something salty and/or briny cuts through the richness of the cheese and provides a burst of flavor.  Choose items like good quality olives, pickled vegetables, roasted nuts, or cornichons.

Something sweet like a cluster of grapes, some dried apricots or cherries, a drizzle of honey, or my Four Ingredient Dried Fig Jam (recipe below) make a great contrast to salty, creamy cheeses.

Sliced meats are an optional but yummy addition to your spread. Cured meats like prosciutto or salami, a truffled pate, or your favorite cold cuts help add hearty substance.

Plain old cheese and crackers are easy, but with these tips, you’ll have a restaurant quality offering with no fuss and no stress, leaving you more time to enjoy this beautiful season with your friends and family.  Happy Holidays!

fig jam

Four Ingredient Dried Fig Jam

I make this fig jam in advance for quick and easy assembly of a cheese plate at a moment’s notice!   

Ingredients you’ll need:

  • 1 cup finely chopped dried figs
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • ½ cup fruit juice such as pomegranate or orange juice

Steps to follow:

  1. Combine all ingredients into a small saucepan and cover with a lid.
  2. Simmer on medium-low heat for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally until the figs have plumped and the juice is mostly absorbed.
  3. Let cool, covered, then transfer to an airtight container and refrigerate overnight or up to 2 weeks before serving with your favorite cheese plate.
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