Shelly Westerhausen is firm believer that easy, affordable recipes can taste just as good as the pricier, more time-consuming ones. Her secret? Fresh ingredients and spread-style dining. Westerhausen's new cookbook, Platters and Boards, serves as a guide to her uncomplicated culinary philosophy. "Because platters and boards are so versatile, they allow me to be creative with my food while giving me the freedom to be resourceful when I need to be and to splurge when I want to impress," she tells Refinery29. Westerhausen's love for variety and simplicity in her meals led her (and now us) to the platter lifestyle.
"When making a spread, you want to make sure you are getting a variety of tastes, colors, and textures to keep each bite interesting and to create a visually stunning presentation," Westerhausen says. "I think it’s really easy to get overwhelmed with all the directions you can take a spread, so I always suggest to people that they pick a theme or recipe to build their spread around." She suggests covering the bases of savory (cheese, dip, or bread), tangy (pickled veggies or condiments), sweet (chocolate, fruit, jam, or candied nuts), salty (roasted nuts, crackers, or cured meats), and fresh (herbs), and splurging on specific specialty goods when and where it fits your budget.
The best part of spread-style dining? It can be thrown together in no time. "I’m able to lay everything out before guests arrive (which means I get to actually enjoy my own party!) and my guests are always amazed at how beautiful and delicious everything is," Westerhausen says. "I swear they think I spent all day cooking away in the kitchen when in reality I just spend a few hours in the morning making some dips and a little time right before they come to lay everything out."
Ahead we have three of Westerhausen's Platters and Boards recipes to help us start off a summer full of effortless eats. Her rustled-up recipes are reminders that, in her words, "there is an entire meal lurking in your kitchen if you just get creative with your leftovers and condiments." And also, that we're never too old to enjoy a DIY sundae spread.