Serving a cheese tray at a party is a no-brainer; it's an easy way to serve a hungry crowd. The question is how to make it distinctive. An easy and beautiful way to vary the usual three cheeses on a plate is to add handfuls of nuts and dried fruits.

Simply set a variety of colors and shapes of cheeses on any favorite tray (we like to use a simple wooden cutting board, whose rustic look complements the casually elegant food), then drop handfuls of walnuts and dried fruit — apricots, cranberries, cherries, dates, figs, or anything you like — around the cheeses. Remember to let the cheeses come to room temperature before serving, and add baguette slices or crackers alongside.

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