When our managing editor, Kellee Miller, took a few weeks off to get married and honeymoon in Sardinia (hard life!), we had to send her off in style, and there was no doubt what should be the centerpiece of the celebration: a relish tray. A Kansas native, Kellee has spent years educating confused New Yorkers about the significance of the relish tray. In fact, a couple years ago, Kellee wrote a blog post on the subject, so I used it as a blueprint for the one I assembled.
It couldn't have been easier (the toughest part was washing all the veggies). On two platters, I arranged the following: celery sticks, carrots, cornichons, sliced radishes, pickled beets (toothpicks make it easy to avoid stained fingers), pitted mixed olives, ranch dip, and pimiento cheese. Lesley, one of our food editors, whipped up a batch that afternoon (you can make it yourself or buy a tub at the store), and I stuffed a few of the celery sticks, serving the rest in a large ramekin. Coupled with Lesley's dainty tea sandwiches and recipe tester Jessie's gorgeous puff pastry fruit-and-cream cups, we had quite an afternoon treat.
A couple weeks later, I learned about another regional cheese-spread staple, this time from Kentucky: beer cheese (a simple pureed dip made with shredded cheddar, flat beer, garlic, ground mustard, Worcestershire sauce, and a little cayenne). I made some for a barbecue I attended and, as with the pimento cheese at Kellee's shower, that beer cheese was gobbled up right away. News flash: Americans love their cheese.
Do you have any appetizer traditions that are specific to your neck of the woods? And do they involve cheese? Please share with us in the comments!