Become a big cheese in an elegant way

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Nibbles: For easy entertaining, nothing beats cheeses, crackers, bread and sliced fruit.

January 02, 2000|By Annette Gooch | Annette Gooch,Universal Press Syndicate

A cheese board -- an assortment of cheeses chosen for their quality and range of flavors and textures -- makes for near- effortless entertaining. Add some crackers, bread, slices of apple or pear, and something good to drink, and in no time you'll have put together a small feast.

Slightly more elaborate but still well within the easy-but- elegant category are baked brie with a caramelized walnut topping, and a crock of English Stilton laced with port.

Sweet Brie

Makes 1 to 2 cups, depending on size of cheese

1 wheel (4 1/2 to 8 ounces) brie

1/2 cup chopped pecans or walnuts

3/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar

sliced baguettes or crackers

Unwrap cheese; place in a microwave-safe pie plate or flat dish. Sprinkle with nuts. Cover top and sides with brown sugar, gently pressing it onto top of wheel with the fingers; the sides need not be fully covered.

Microwave on medium-high (70 percent) power until cheese is warm and soft (1 to 2 minutes), testing with a toothpick. The cheese wheel should retain its shape. Serve immediately with baguette slices.

Reheat as needed. To reheat, microwave cheese on medium (50 percent) power as needed to maintain soft texture.

Stilton Crock with Port Wine

Makes 4 cups, enough for 20 to 30 cocktail servings.

2 pounds Stilton cheese

1/3 to 1/2 cup port wine

crackers or bread, for accompaniment

Trim rind from cheese; place cheese in a bowl. Add port. With back of a wooden spoon, blend port and cheese.

Pack into a 4-cup crock; cover with plastic film, refrigerate and allow to age 1 week.

Bring cheese mixture to room temperature; spread onto crackers or bread.

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