Guests dropping in? Late night snack? Let’s throw together the world’s easiest appetizer platter! First of all, it makes me crazy to spend a ton of money on something I can make for myself, but I love the sweet combination of fig spread with all of those delicious stinky cheeses available today, especially smeared on a savory cracker. So…I set about trying to make fig spread myself. My first try involved a lot of splattering of hot figs on the stovetop, trying a Fig Jam recipe I found. This resulted in a lot of cussing by yours truly. My second attempt involved the slow cooker, and I was home free. No splattering, and you can just walk away and let the slow cooker do all the work. This is such a cinch to make you won’t believe it, and full of fig flavor since we go light on the sugar. The appetizer comes together in minutes, and can be as complicated or as simple as you like. I like to keep a variety of roasted nuts and dried fruits in my freezer. A trip to the supermarket for some stinky cheese and olives and you’re ready to go. Figs are still available in the supermarket, so if you jump on this quickly, you’ll be set for the entire winter.
In the old days, I used to slave over a variety of appetizers whenever guests were coming over for dinner. That strategy resulted in: #1. Everybody filled up on the appetizers and weren’t hungry when dinner came around which made me just a little peevish, and #2. I was exhausted with the entire business. As I grew older, and hopefully a little wiser and a lot lazier, I came up with a more random and easy approach, and I think everybody is happier. I usually keep a variety of dried fruit and roasted nuts in the freezer, so I haul them out. Run to the supermarket, pick up a couple of varieties of ‘stinky cheese’, usually with a soft goat cheese added, and a container of olives, a box of savory crackers and I’m done.
Another lesson I learned was to stop at 2-3 varieties of cheese. I often ended up with a ton left over of many of them, and none left of the varieties the guests preferred the most (which, in my case, was the triple creme soft cheeses). I learned to limit choices and stay with one soft, one more firm, and maybe a soft goat cheese thrown in for good measure. Another thing I discovered is that guest like to play with their food just as much as I do. They like combining dried fruits and nuts with a variety of cheeses, then stop for an olive or two. They also liked the combination of adding a sweet Fig Spread or honey to cheeses to see what the effect would be.
Note: The olives should go in a small bowl. Don’t forget to put another, empty bowl close by for the olive pits. Speaking from experience, if you do not do this, you will find pits everywhere, including back on your pretty appetizer board, and then you have to casually sneak up and scoop them out – UGH.
This Fig Spread is a keeper, but if you can’t find figs in the supermarket, you’l probably be able to find the spread in the Jam & Jelly or the Cheese section of the store.
Whichever route you choose, I hope you have fun – that’s what this is all about. Thanks so much for reading today!! xoxoxo
- FOR THE FIG SPREAD
- 4 pounds fresh figs
- 2 cups granulated sugar
- Approximately ¼ cup fresh lemon juice
- FOR THE APPETIZER PLATTER (In quantities you prefer)
- Dried Apricots
- A variety of olives
- A variety of roasted nuts (I usually roast a combination of Hazelnuts and Almonds)
- 2-3 ‘Stinky, cheeses, preferably including a soft goat cheese
- Fig Spread
- A variety of either savory crackers or crisp flatbreads
- FOR THE FIG SPREAD
- Wash about 5-6, 1-cup jelly jars. Prepare jar lids and rings according to manufacturer’s instructions.
- Spray the interior of your slow cooker with cooking spray.
- Add the figs and sugar, and turn the slow cooker to High.
- When the figs and sugar start to boil (this might take up to two hours depending on your slow cooker), use an immersion blender, hand mixer, or whisk to thoroughly combine the figs and sugar into a smooth mixture.
- Set the lid of your slow cooker on sideways on top of the figs, and allow the mixture to continue to cook on high until it reaches the thickness you prefer. I like it thick enough to heavily coat a spoon, which usually means the fig mixture has reduced by about half of what it was when you started. This could take up to 4 hours, depending on your slow cooker.
- When your fig spread has reached the thickness you like, stir in the lemon juice and keep cooking for another 10 minutes or so until the lemon juice has fully incorporated into the fig spread.
- Taste to make sure you like the balance of lemon to figs, and adjust accordingly.
- Remove from heat and ladle into prepared jelly jars.
- Refrigerate what you’d like to enjoy now and freeze the rest. This spread should stay good in your refrigerator for 3-4 months or longer.
- FOR THE APPETIZER PLATTER
- Roasted Nuts – Equal amounts of whole Hazelnuts and Almonds, or any other nut combination you like. Macadamia Nuts are mind blowing. Walnuts are also good. Just place the nuts on a cookie sheet and spray with canola oil and sprinkle with salt. Roast at 350 degrees for 10-20 minutes, or until nuts are fragrant.
- A variety of ‘Stinky Cheeses’ -if you are unsure of what you’d like, ask the person at the cheese counter for help – and be sure to ask them for a taste before you decide. You’ll probably want a soft cheese, one that is firm, and maybe one that is from a sheep or goat rather than cow. There are some really fun ones out there with dried cranberry or other dried fruit, and ribbons of bleu cheese running through. Your cheese person can help guide you to which cheeses are complimentary to each other. Don’t be afraid to ask; they usually love to help!
- TO ASSEMBLE
- On a platter, arrange the cheeses however you like. Include a small pot of fig spread on the platter.
- Now all you have to do is decorate the rest, and I prefer the ‘throw it all down there’ approach. To me, this looks more casual and approachable, and your guests can have fun working out all kinds of different combinations of things to try.
- Note: The olives should go in a small bowl. Don’t forget to put another, empty bowl close by for the olive pits. Speaking from experience, if you do not do this, you will find pits everywhere, including back on your pretty appetizer board.
- Note: If you have chosen a soft goat cheese or other soft savory cheese, it’s so fun to cut a circle of the cheese and drizzle with honey. Beautiful and delicious too!
- Note: You can show your guests how much fun it is to spoon some Fig Spread on a cracker, then top it with any of the cheeses. They can mix and match to see what they like best.
- In a separate basket or plate, arrange your crackers or flatbreads. These can go on your cheese platter if it’s big enough, but you don’t want to crowd things too much.
- All that’s left is dropping the assorted nuts and dried fruit on the platter.
- Dive in!