Aahhh the vegetable tray. A holiday staple, yet often relegated to the back of the table with the likes of fruitcake and weird jello. Either hastily storebought as a dish to pass or assembled out of a guilty sense of obligation to have something remotely healthy on the table. But let´s face it, tucked between piles of baked goods and buttery breads, those broccoli florets don't stand a chance. I'm a self-proclaimed veggie lover, but given the choice between bacon-wrapped dates or a radish with ranch, my answer is pretty clear. Sorry radish.
But as a lover of vegetables, that made me start thinking, what would it take to give the veggie tray a fighting chance? Soon I was running down the rabbit hole of "winter veggie platters" on Google and challenging everything I ever believed about vegetable trays! Here's how to turn it up a notch on your tired old crudites and create something that your friends and family will actually want to eat.
6 Tips for the Showstopping Crudites and Vegetable Trays
1. Look for interesting vegetables at the farmers markets, and produce that will add wow factor: yellow cauliflower, purple carrots, candy-cane striped beets, turnips, and bok choy can all be found at the farmers market this time of year.
2. Scrub your veggies well but don't trim off the root or top! There's something beautiful and rustic about a carrot, radish, or beet with a straggly root or a little bit of green top still attached. It means you know it was local and fresh.
3. Embrace imperfections. Read food doesn't grow in perfectly uniform sizes, so don't worry if your carrot is a little knobby or your radishes range from tiny to giant. There's beauty in imperfection.
4. Not all vegetables need to be raw. Try some lightly-pickled veggies for a little extra zing and as a way to bring in some of the out-of-season summer vegetables. Or try roasting root vegetables for some added texture (roasted baby potatoes are great!). Quickly char a few veggies on the grill for a smoky touch (sweet potato sticks and carrot sticks are perfect for this), or lightly steam vegetables like brussel sprouts.
6. Waste not want not. If your vegetable tray isn't completely gobbled up, save the raw veggies for crudite quick-pickling the next day. It's a no-fuss way to let you enjoy them a little longer and keep some extra pennies in your pocket.
Check out these beautiful examples below and just click on the image for more details:
Can we just oooh and aaah at this spread for a moment? Bright pink beet and feta dip, colorful seasonal veggies, salty olives, and toasted flatbread make these veggie trays the center of attention. Get the dip recipe at Free People Blog.
This pile of beauties from Chic on the Street features fresh raw green beans (yep you can eat them raw!), parboiled pototoes, and sliced radishes.
Striped beets, pink watermelon radishes, and bright green steamed brussel sprouts make a festive display by Edible Pioneer Valley.
And this last picture is of the veggie tray that I put together for my family Christmas party last weekend. The tray featured watermelon radishes, daikon radishes, heirloom carrots, and a variety of beets from Small Axe Market Gardens in Springfield. I whipped up a sunchoke hummus (sunchokes from Veenstra's Vegetables in Rochester) and a beet feta dip, and garnished everything with a smattering of olives, almonds, toasted bread and pickled red peppers. It was easy to pull together and the family reviews were totally worth it:
"This tray is like a flavor explosion" -Uncle Jay
"Gorgeous" - Aunt Tina
"This is the best dish" - Uncle Todd
Head out to your nearest holiday market or call up a local farmer and create your own veggie tray masterpiece this holiday season!