pickled pears

Photo: Rick Poon

A Totally Different Way to Put Fruit and Cheese Together
Pickled vegetables? Yawn. Pickled fruit? Now you've got our attention. In Michelle McKenzie's new book, Dandelion & Quince, the author pickles quartered Asian pears with impressive results. They're tangy and have an edge, but because McKenzie prepares them simply with white vinegar, sugar, black peppercorns and sea salt, the pears' subtly sweet flavor shines through. They're the perfect accompaniment to cured meats and sharp cheeses, from cheddar to blue to Parmigiano-Reggiano.

Get the recipe: Pickled Pears
herbed caramel corn

Photo: Laura Volo

The Spin on a Movie-Night Favorite
Popcorn may be known for its affinity with soda and Junior Mints, but Brian Keyser and Leigh Friend, authors of Composing the Cheese Plate, say its crunch also makes it a good match for creamy cheese. In particular, they like to make a caramel corn with herbes de Provence, a blend of herbs that comes from southern France, to make it a little more interesting. The sweet caramel brings out the natural sugars in the cheese. Serve it with Roquefort, which is also from southern France, for a nice play against the cheese's intensity.

Get the recipe: Herbes de Provence Caramel Corn
maple roasted apples

Photo: Laura Volo

Another Reason to Pick Up Those Adorable Tiny Apples
Those miniature apples you see in stores in the fall aren't just lovely decorations for your holiday table. Keyser and Friend say you can peel these so-called lady apples (or crab apples), leaving the stems on if they have them, set them upright in a baking dish and pour a mixture of maple syrup, melted butter, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt over them. Bake for an hour, until they're tender and lightly caramelized, and serve them at room temperature, or warm, alongside Gouda or cheddar for an ideal cool-weather pairing.

Get the recipe: Maple-Roasted Apples
miso glazed carrots

Photo: © Noah Fecks

The Japanese Accompaniment You Didn't See Coming
Miso, a fermented soybean paste, is not something you'd automatically think goes with dairy. Yet, in The Art of the Cheese Plate, Tia Keenan makes the case that its pleasantly savory umami taste complements smoked cheeses (such as cheddar) surprisingly well. The book has a terrific recipe for miso-glazed carrots, which also includes maple syrup, orange juice and zest, nutmeg and cumin, so it's sweet with a little zip.

Get the recipe: Miso-Glazed Carrots
blood orange chips

Photo: Laura Volo

The Cracker You Probably Haven't Tried Before
It's hard to beat the visual appeal of blood oranges, but that's not the only reason we love putting them on a cheese plate. In this recipe, from Composing the Cheese Plate, you slice the whole, unpeeled fruits crosswise as thinly as possible, dip them in sugar syrup, sprinkle them with fennel seeds and bake them on very low heat in the oven for an hour or two. You'll be left with a crispy, crunchy chip that serves as a cracker, with a gently bitter and tart taste that goes wonderfully with Manchego, or a strong sheep's-milk cheese, such as Pecorino Romano.

Get the recipe: Blood Orange Fennel Chip