Happy holidays! If your holiday season is like ours, food will be a common theme in your festivities. And rightly so. Sharing good food with loved ones is a way of celebrating our good fortune and passing on our traditions, culture, religion and family rituals.
In our family, big, beautiful vegetable platters have become part of our holiday traditions. The colourful display of fresh veggies adds to the festive table and is a safe bet for kids, those with allergies, picky eaters, dieters and anyone needing a little break from cookies and other hors d’oeuvres.
If you’d like to brighten and lighten up the holiday table with a beautiful vegetable platter this holiday season, here are a few pointers for making them look and taste irresistible.
But first things first. Did you know the fancy name for fresh cut vegetables is crudites (krew-dee-tay)? Next time someone asks you what you’re bringing to the party, say you’re bringing the crudites.
Tips for beautiful vegetable platters
- Start with a beautiful platter, flat stone, wood board or serving tray. A plastic or aluminum tray will work as well, especially when dressed up with bed of kale, lettuce leaves or radicchio.
- Choose a serving piece with a lip to contain the veggies and allow for a deep layer that will look like a bounty of gorgeous overflowing produce.
- When shopping, choose only fresh, crisp produce. If snap peas were on your list, but they don’t look plump and fresh, don’t buy them, choose something else.
- Choose at least one uncommon vegetable to give people something new to try and make your platter look different than every other veggie platter. Consider jicama, fennel, purple cauliflower, kohlrabi, purple carrots, endive, unique radishes or string beans.
- Cut veggies in unique ways. For example, cut cucumbers into spears instead of rounds, cut peppers into rings instead of strips or use a crinkle-cut blade to make carrots look like ripple french fries. But whatever shape or style you choose, always cut them so they’re easy to hold, eat and load up with dip.
- Choose vegetables that have different flavours and textures (spicy radishes, sweet carrots, bitter endive, watery cucumbers, crunchy celery, etc.).
- Plan how you will arrange your veggies. Create patterns using different colours or textures. For example, use only veggies that can be cut into two-inch sticks. Or, try a monochromatic or ombre pattern using veggies that are different shades of the same color going from darkest to lightest. Or get really creative and create an image using veggies. To make a Christmas tree, use broccoli for the green foliage, red grape tomatoes for a red garland running through the foliage, yellow peppers for a star on top of the tree and cauliflower for snow around the base of the tree. A tree trunk made of pretzel sticks completes the look.
- Serve at least two different dips with the veggies. One mild and familiar like a ranch or creamy herb dip and one a little more exotic like hummus, salsa or avocado cilantro dip. If you’re not sure of the dietary restrictions of all the guests, it’s good if one of them is a dairy-free option. To ensure your dips stay fresh and safe, fill two small containers with each type of dip. Use one to put on the platter and store the other in the fridge that you can use to replace the initial container at the two-hour mark.
- Add an unexpected touch. No one said veggie platters are for veggies only. Consider one of the following pita wedges, pistachios, spiced nuts or marinated vegetables like olives, pickled onions, baby corn or artichokes.
- Finish with a little garnish. A sprig of rosemary, dill or parsley across the top, a couple of snap peas opened up to reveal those tasty sweet pearls or some carved radishes strategically placed will add a little extra flare.
- Finally, assemble your tray as close to serving time as possible to keep veggies looking their best. Remember, for food safety two hours at room temperature is the maximum for any cut or opened food.
Here are some of my favourite dips to serve with crudites.
Green avocado and cilantro dip
- 1 ripe avocado
- 1/2 c. plain yogurt or sour cream
- 2 tbsp. lime juice
- 1/2 c. roughly chopped cilantro
- 1 tsp. cumin
- 1/2 tsp. salt
- Water as needed
Add all ingredients except water into food processor or deep bowl if using immersion blender.
Process until smooth. Taste and adjust seasoning.
Add water if needed to make a softer dip. Add even more water to turn this dip into a dressing to pour over a salad. Store in a tightly sealed container for two to four days in the fridge. Makes 1 cup.
Creamy herb dip
- 2/3 c. plain yogurt (thick, Greek or Icelandic yogurt works best)
- 1/3 c. cream cheese
- 1/2 tbsp. finely chopped chivesor green onions
- 1 tbsp finely chopped parsley
- 1/2 tbsp. finely chopped dill
- 1/8 tsp. garlic powder
- 1/8 tsp. black pepper
- Salt to taste
In small bowl, combine all ingredients. Use the back of a fork or spoon against the side of the bowl to ensure cream cheese is well blended and smooth or use a food processor or immersion blender.
Taste and adjust seasoning.
Store in a tightly sealed container for two to four days in the fridge. Makes 1 cup.
White bean or chickpea hummus
- 1 can (19 oz./540 ml) white kidney beans or chickpeas
- 2 tbsp. lemon juice (half a lemon)
- 1 tbsp. canola oil
- 2 tbsp. tahini
- 2 cloves garlic
- 1/2 tsp. cumin powder
- 1/2 tsp. ground coriander powder
- 1/4 tsp. salt
- 1/8 tsp. black pepper or cayenne pepper
- 1 tsp. paprika (optional)
- 1/4 c. chopped fresh cilantro/parsley (optional)
Drain and rinse white beans or chickpeas well. If using chickpeas, remove any loose skins. Add white beans or chickpeas, lemon juice, oil, tahini, garlic, cumin, coriander, salt and pepper to food processor. Purée until smooth, stopping to scrape down sides several times. Taste and adjust seasoning.
Add 1 to 2 tbsp. of water if consistency is too thick. Purée an extra minute to ensure extra smooth and creamy hummus.
Scrape into serving bowl. To garnish sprinkle with paprika and chopped greens. Serve with veggies, crackers or soft pita bread wedges. Also makes a great spread on sandwiches.