In summer months, a cheese platter can play a unique role. Rather than taking the typical approach and turning cheese into a centerpiece, make summer fruit the star, with only a cheese or two as support.
If you choose your cheese properly, you can showcase the best stone fruit in an entirely delicious — and simple — way.
To be clear, I'm talking specifically about stone fruit. For some reason, I don't love berries with cheese, unless it's ricotta. But peaches, plums, apricots, and nectarines can be so so delicious with the right kind of cheese. Especially for dessert.
You can go for a blue, which is nice with plums, but tampers with the acidity of an apricot. Goat cheese is nice with some stone fruit, too, but somehow doesn't make for an over-the-top, gloriously unified pairing. It's more of a side-by-side pairing, as if the two elements hold hands happily, rather than merge into an entirely new something-er-other altogether.
Cheddar's great with fruit, but again, makes for a partner that could be a bit overpowering for that bright sweetness of stone fruit. It's classic with a bunch of grapes or slices of apple for a reason. Instead, choose another style of cheese for summer stones.
What's left? Washed rind cheese.
If you've never tried a wedge of washed rind with a nectarine, run don't walk. Find a cheese that's ripe, oozing its interior creaminess. You can go uber strong, like an epoisses, or go milder, like a taleggio, which tastes more of cream with an ever-so-slightly funky aroma. The riper and stinkier you go with the cheese, the sweeter and riper your fruit choice should be. A middle-of-the-road red plum would be great with a relatively mild raclette or fontina, while a juicing, sweet-as-can-be yellow peach would work best with a true stinker, like Hooligan or Red Hawk.
Why does the combo work? It's all about opposites. And how they attract. Sweet with stinky, sugar with salt.
Pictured is a standup example of a winning combo: an intensely ripe Vermont's Von Trapp Family Creamery's Oma with white nectarines, plums, and apricots. And some mint, for good measure.
(Image: Nora Singley)