Cheesemonger Steve Jenkins says the rules for pairing cheese with other foods are simple: There are no rules. Just use your imagination.

Here are some tips from Jenkins to get you started. 

Steve Jenkins Steve Jenkins

1. Don't be afraid of big flavors, and think about beauty when you're putting together a cheese tray.

2. Forget boring apples and grapes. Instead consider melons and stone fruits, which pair superbly with cow-milk cheeses.

3. Dried fruit is an excellent accent. Jenkins loves royal medjool dates, dried papaya, prunes, figs and dried cantaloupe with big-flavored cheeses.

4. Consider simple savories: Drizzle a little fine olive oil over goat and sheep cheeses and partner with some good olives, your own oven-roasted tomatoes, and warm hazelnuts, walnuts or almonds.

5. Drizzle honey over sheep or goat cheese then grind some fresh pepper over the top.

6. The fruit pastes from Spain that we're beginning to see in the markets are wonderful with Spanish cheeses.

[Ed. note: Want to learn more about cheese? Read You can judge a cheese by its crust (and 15 other things to know about cheese)Preparing Cheese Plates and Storing Cheese, excerpts from Jenkins' book, Cheese Primer.]

Steven Jenkins
Steven Jenkins is vice president of Fairway Group Services at Fairway market. He is the author of the books Cheese Primer, which won a James Beard award, and The Food Life. His writing has appeared in numerous food publications.