Why Cheese is Healthier Than You Think, and the Easiest Way to Entertain


You may think of cheese as a party food, but not exactly as a health food. Well, we say it can be both. The 57 calories per half-ounce (about the size of your thumb) is about the same as 2 tablespoons of hummus—and it goes much better with a glass of pinot noir, if you ask us. Plus, the handcrafted artisan cheeses were seeing more of on the market are so packed with flavor, you only need a sliver for satisfaction.

You can grate aged cheeses like Parmesan and Asiago to add flavor to dishes for much less fat. And most aged cheeses are lactose-free (the milk sugar drops as cheese ages). Serve up an easy cheese plate at your next party with these tips.

How to serve
"Focus on diversity—in texture, in types of milk, even in appearance," says Janet Fletcher, author of The Cheese Course. You could try serving a soft goat cheese with a smoky blue cheese made from cow's milk, for example. Or compare similar cheeses from different locations—say cheddars from England and California—so that you can taste the effect of a particular place on the cheese.

When to serve
Serve a cheese course as a leisurely end to dinner, or in place of dessert. "If you have a cheese platter at the start when people are hungry, they tend to overindulge," Fletcher says.

What to add
"Even one beautiful piece of cheese makes a great presentation," Fletcher says. But if you want to include an accompaniment, nuts or fresh or dried fruit go nicely. "My favorite is a drizzle of honey on a pungent blue, like Valdeon from Spain." Fletcher prefers serving cheese with bread instead of crackers, but stick to a basic baguette instead of an herby loaf so it doesn't compete with the cheese.

What not to do
Fletcher's one rule for cheese: "Dont serve it cold." Remove it from the fridge early—the bigger the block, the longer it'll need—and keep it under wraps (cover with a dome or overturned bowl) until it's at room temperature, when flavor and texture are at their prime. To keep things safe, of course, don't leave any food out at room temperature for longer than 2 hours.

Find great cheese recipes!