One of my absolute favorite things to do is create cheeseboards. I recently bought Marissa Mullen's book, "That Cheese Plate Will Change Your Life", after having followed her on Instagram for years and loving her creativity in making cheeseboards. What really hit me in her book was that she focuses not only on the aesthetics of how the completed board looks, but she emphasizes the actual process of creating the board (which is my favorite part).
Mullen states how the simple act of creating a cheese board can be meditative, which really spoke to me, because that's how I view cooking and anything to do with the culinary arts...in fact, it was the driving factor in me becoming a professional chef. However, coming up in the culinary industry, working in restaurants, working as a private chef, etc. you're taught to cook efficiently, in an almost robotic fashion so as to produce a perfectly consistent product every time in an expedited fashion. This repetition and typically stressful environment, can take the meditative and conscious enjoyment out of cooking sometimes... so for me, it's important, now that I am not cooking in the professional setting, to slow down, take my time with my prep, cooking methods, and plating.
Since creating various boards has really been a fun outlet of mine for a while, I decided to take board making into various applications...not just making a cheese board for date night, but making a board for a random weekday lunch, or for brunch on a weekend morning. If being in quarantine (aka Groundhog's Day) has taught me anything, it's that you don't have to wait for a special occasion to make your daily life special. Don't wait for Christmas to make your favorite cookies, make them when you randomly crave them in July! So with that mantra in mind, I created this board on a random Wednesday for lunch.
I decided I wanted to make an Italian antipasto-like board for lunch, incorporating some cheeses, meats, veggies, breads and lots of fresh basil. Being in quarantine, I decided to transport myself to the Italian Countryside, sitting outside overlooking the rolling hills of Tuscany, with a crisp glass of Pinot Grigio, eating this lunch (instead of the harsh reality of being in New Jersey in 12 degree weather with a screaming 9 month old.)
The colors of Italian food just make me happy...the white cheeses contrasting with the bold greens of basil and the deep reds of tomatoes... I also wanted to add in some great textures and flavors, so I started to compile a list of the elements I wanted to have on my Italian Countryside Lunch Board:
- Mini Mozzarella Balls
- Italian Herb Crusted Turkey
- Prosciutto San Daniele
- Genoa Salami
- Heirloom Tomatoes tossed in fresh basil, Olive Oil and Maldon Salt (recipe below)
- Sautéed Mushrooms with Garlic (recipe below)
- Toasted Ciabatta Bread and Breadsticks
- Olive Oil infused with Fresh Basil and Garlic
- Basil, for Garnish
Of course there are a bunch of other things you could add if you choose: Olives, Roasted Bell Peppers, a big wedge of Parmesan Cheese, Various Cured Meats...the options are endless. I just love the idea of an Italian themed board for a fun weekday lunch! Pair this with a crisp glass of white wine like a Pinot Grigio or Sauvignon Blanc and you can enjoy this board by yourself or with friends.
Makes 24 oz Mushrooms
- 24 oz. Baby Bella Mushrooms, cleaned and sliced thin
- 1 Tablespoon Canola Oil
- 1 teaspoon Dried Oregano
- 1/4 teaspoon Course Ground Pepper
- 1 teaspoon garlic, minced
- salt, to taste
- Heat up a large skillet with your canola oil in it, over a medium high heat.
- One hot, add your mushrooms, oregano and black pepper and stir frequently cooking for 5 minutes.
- At this point, add in your garlic and cook another 5-8 minutes (until all the liquid from the mushrooms has evaporated).
- Season with salt and serve hot or at room temperature.
Makes 1 pound of Tomatoes
- 1 Pound of Mini Heirloom Tomatoes, sliced small
- 1 teaspoon Olive Oil
- 1/2 teaspoon Rice Wine Vinegar
- 1/4 teaspoon Maldon Salt
- 1 Tablespoon Fresh Basil, chiffonade
- Toss all your ingredients together in a bowl. Serve room temperature or cold.