With most meals I make for my family, there isn’t much choice. Food is plated, then served, and, while my husband and daughter enjoy those meals, they absolutely love the meals that harken to the classic book series, Choose Your Own Adventure. This is what meals served on boards feel like — a culinary adventure where the diner can choose/serve themselves a meal from an array of ingredients. I mean, even when I was a kid, I loved the family gatherings or holiday parties where plates, platters and bowls of food were organized on a table, and we were free to help ourselves. There is something playful about this way of eating and, it offers a quick and easy way for home cooks to prep a meal.
So, when Yasmin Fahr‘s Boards & Spreads arrived in the mail, my daughter was keen to choose a few boards to try (click here to read my review of her previous cookbook Keeping It Simple). This book isn’t your typical charcuterie book giving ideas for combinations of cheeses, meats, vegetables, fruits, etc. What I really appreciate about Fahr’s approach is that she offers a key recipe which the rest of the board is built around. She gives ideas and recipes for a variety of sides, condiments, and accompaniments which are easy to prep or make, and I’ve found I’m using quite a few of the condiments for other meals I make throughout the week! After making the Scallion Labneh for The Egg Pita Sandwich Board, I found that it worked well in other dishes (and my husband and daughter loved it!). Sometimes it’s the small recipes, consisting of just a few ingredients, which make a big impact.
The recipes are organized into 7 chapters: 1) Boards for Breakfast, 2) Breads on Boards, 3) Snacking Boards + Salad + Veggie Platters, 4) Dinnertime Boards, 5) Take It Outside, 6) Accents + Add-Ons, and 7) Dips, Spreads + More Fun Things. The best part about books like this one is that recipes can be easily scaled up or down, depending on the number of people you’re going to be serving and, you don’t necessarily need to make your board as she makes hers. Boards & Spreads presents a relaxed, yet fun approach where you can mix-and-match components. I appreciate that Fahr’s recipes make excellent use of both fresh ingredients and pantry staples. When trying her recipes, I found that I already had ingredients on hand, which was helpful.
Saturday mornings are big in my house — we wake up to listen to a replay of Casey Kasem’s American Top 40 — The ’80s on the radio. It’s become a bit of a game to see who can guess which year is being featured (to tell you the truth, I’m more of an early ’80s kind of person, but there is something so nostalgic about listen to Casey guide us through any of those years of epically great tunes). Anyways, the other thing that happens while we’re singing along to the music on the radio is that I’m making breakfast. Boards & Spreads has so many excellent choices that I found it difficult to pick which one to try first. The Pancakes Board, piled with Citrus-Labneh Pancakes, Any-Berry Compote and Other Fixings was such a delight! I love compote as a topping for so many things, and here it pairs well with the bright and tangy pancakes. The Caramelized Bananas were also a hit — I used ghee when I was frying them, which made the little caramelized banana coins taste like banana bread.
Another delicious breakfast board is The Homemade Granola Board — here, Fahr keeps her granola recipe simple. Rolled oats, pumpkin seeds, and almonds mixed with olive oil and maple syrup, this granola becomes the perfect host for Broiled Fruit as well as Caramelized Banana (I also enjoy the way Fahr threads some of the supporting recipes throughout the book, showcasing them on different boards — like she does with the bananas). I’d never thought to broil fruit before and, I like how the heat both softens and intensifies the fruit (I used plums and grapefruit). And while compote is usually my go-to, I’ve started to use broiled fruit more.
Sometimes the Saturday breakfast becomes more of a brunch and, The Egg Pita Sandwich Board is just the thing to enjoy in that in between period between breakfast and lunch. Here, cooking the eggs can’t get any easier — Fahr has home cooks using a sheet pan to cook the eggs (such a clever idea!), so while the eggs bake in the oven you can prep the rest of the board. I made her Lemony Herbs + Onions as well as the Scallion Labneh to serve with the pitas, along with ribboned cucumbers, slice tomatoes, crumbled feta, slice avocado, and Dijon mustard. I relish a savory breakfast as much as the sweet ones, and even writing about this board has my mouth watering! Since my husband doesn’t eat eggs, I made some falafel for him, and if you find you’re wanting meat here, Fahr suggests adding smoked salmon.
There is a simple joy in sharing a lovely, lingering meal with friends and family, and I think that the ideas and recipes Yasmin Fahr presents in her latest book Boards & Spreads show home cooks how to achieve this. I found many board ideas to enjoy at breakfast-time but there are a whole host of recipes for other times too. With any of the key ideas/recipes that Fahr gives us, we can build a board to suit the number of guests, using the ingredients we have on hand. Arranged in a beautiful manner, I know that my family was enticed by the possibilities of being able to choose something delicious for themselves.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank Clarkson Potter and Penguin Random House for providing me with a free, review copy of this book. I did not receive monetary compensation for my post, and all thoughts and opinions expressed are my own.