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Need suggestions for an interesting veggie/crudite tray

I am preparing a veggie/crudite platter (and dips) for a friend's husband's surprise 60th birthday party. Veggie platters can be so boring -- I really want to make this a tray that people really want to eat.

In the past, I have tried blanching the veggies first -- and I like the way that sets the color and makes them a little more tasty (due to the salted boiling water as well as the softer texture). However, I seem to always use the same boring vegetables: carrots, broccoli, mushrooms, cauliflower and green beans.

Can anyone suggest something else that would work well? CI once suggested adding fingerling potatoes to such a tray. I may try that -- but they will get cold. Is that a problem?

Thanks!

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  1. Fingerling potatoes are good cold IMO, but some people may not like them. I love raw fennel and it makes a great dip scoop, but again, it's not for everyone. Multi-colored peppers are always a hit. Asparagus spears (blanched)? Jicama cut into matchsticks? Kale chips (they're too fragile for dipping but they'd make an interesting garnish on their own)? Roasted brussels sprout halves (not everyone likes them cold though)? Endive leaves (great scoopers)?

    2 Replies
    1. re: biondanonima

      Oh, great suggestions. I like the idea of fennel - I never thought of serving it raw (so you don't think I should blanch it?) Jicama is a great idea, especially since dinner is Mexican. I tried kale chips once and they were so fragile that they crumbled on me (probably my mistake). Roasted brussel sprouts sound good, too. Thank you!

      1. re: collinsline

        My veggie plates usually have lots of options- something for everyone. Raw carrots, celery, bell pepper strips, jicama, daikon, fennel, persian cucumber sticks, the smaller inside leaves of romaine hearts. Sometimes I put out raw poblano pepper strips.

        Another good option is to skewer some grape tomatoes or olives on mini skewers. Pretty to look at, easy to dip or eat plain.

    2. I like baby veggies if you can find them (my farmer's market has them) like baby squashes and baby carrots. I second the jicima idea--I sometimes sprinkle a little smoked paprika or chili powder on it. I also like pea pods and radishes.

      4 Replies
      1. re: sparkareno

        I'm not a fan of raw radishes but I've been meaning to try them roasted - I hear it changes their texture and flavor entirely. Those would be good on skewers too.

        1. re: biondanonima

          I love roasted radishes. Haven't had them in a while, thanks for the reminder!

          1. re: collinsline

            I have served the baby zuchinni raw. I don't eat some of the others so I don't know. The baby patty pan looks real cute but I don't know if it needs to be blanched. They are pretty small.

        2. I think presentation is everything with crudite. I remember seeing some striking presentations and couldn't remember where, so I googled it. Found these right off the bat (one from right here):
          http://www.eddieross.com/eddie_ross/2...
          http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/290644
          http://ribbonsroadsandraspberries.wor...

          1 Reply
          1. re: sancan

            That first link is just beautiful!

          2. Crudite platters are a great opportunity for an explosion of color and texture. You can use the same basic vegetables but trying using romanesco broccoli, pickled oyster mushrooms and purple cauliflower. I might also add a little more sweetness in there with yellow peppers, shaved fennel and pickled beets.

            1. I like to have various foods done various ways, such as raw (i.e. fennel, endive, cukes); grilled (shrooms, radicchio, peppers, leeks, scallions); pickled (green beans, carrots, asparagus); oven roasted (such as red peppers or tomatoes); braised (leeks, cioppolini onions). I also serve marinated feta or goat's cheese and olives including some of the roasted veg and lemon zest. Grill some lemons when you grill other veg - their juice becomes sweeter and is lovely drizzled over veg (i.e. grilled asparagus).

              1. Walnut salad served in endive is a something a little different, a nice addition to a crudite platter:

                http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/foo...

                As for potatoes, you could steam tiny new red potatoes, cut a slice off the top, hollow out a bit in the center, fill with a bit of sour cream and top with caviar or salmon roe, or just chopped chives. These should be served cold.

                Cucumber spears with an indonesian peanut dipping sauce for dipping are different and tasty. Peeled and lightly steamed asparagus with aioli for dipping is also lovely.

                If you have the time and the skills, quick refrigerated pickled vegetables are refreshingly different - think beets, green beans, okra, carrots, turnips. Martha Stewart has a recipe for a brine for pickles for crudites (no need to can, just refrigerate). Epicurous should also have many suggestions. If you don't have the time to make your own, consider a jar of good quality giardiniera - a nice addition to a veg tray.

                To make a common crudite platter exciting, go for different, out of the ordinary dips. Good luck!

                1. Holy cow! You guys are amazing. Such great suggestions. I am inspired.
                  This is my first time posting to Chowhound, but it won't be my last. Thank you!

                  1. Fingerling potatoes were a huge hit at a recent gathering. They were boiled, cooled, cut in half lengthwise and served with an oil based dip. Oh, yes, they were room temperature. They were the first platter to be emptied. Blanched asparagus are always good too.

                    1. If serving a raw crudité platter, I like to include the small leafs of Romaine hearts, sugar snap peas, and seedless English cucumbers sliced lengthwise instead of the traditional round. Blanched veggies, like haricots vert and potatoes (at room temperature) are particularly nice if served with a grand aioli sauce which is similar to a garlic mayonnaise. But, if you really want to change things up, we enjoy this Antipasto salad--meat, cheese, and veggies all in one.

                      Mixed Antipasto
                      serves 10-12

                      2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
                      2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
                      1 large clove garlic, finely minced or grated on a micro-plane
                      1 teaspoon dried basil
                      1 teaspoon dried oregano
                      1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary
                      1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
                      1/4 cup Extra Virgin olive oil
                      3 large carrots, peeled and cut diagonally into 1/4-inch thick slices
                      2 fennel bulbs, tops trimmed and cut into 1/4-inch slices
                      2 jarred roasted red bell peppers, drained and cut in to 1/2-inch strips
                      1-lb bocconcini (small mozzarella balls), drained
                      10 oz sopressata, sliced in to 1/4-in thick slices and halved
                      2 15-oz canned whole small artichokes, drained

                      crushed red pepper flakes to taste (optional)
                      kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

                      For the marinade
                      In a small bowl whisk together the vinegars, garlic, basil, oregano, and rosemary and salt. Whisking slowly add the oil and whisk until emulsified. Set aside.

                      Fill a large saucepan full of water to a boil. Blanch the carrots and fennel until they are tender but still crisp, about 4-5 minutes. Drain and plunge in to a bowl of ice cold water to stop the cooking process. Once cool, drain well

                      In a large bowl add the carrots, fennel, peppers, bocconcini, salami, artichokes, and the marinade. Mix until combined and coated. Season with crushed red pepper flakes, salt and freshly ground black pepper. Chill in a covered container for at least 4 hours, preferably overnight. Bring to room temperature for 30 minutes before serving.

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: thegalleygourmet

                        Sounds good. By the way, I am going to make your chocolate candy bar squares to bring to a super bowl party!

                        1. re: valerie

                          Wow! I am so glad you are going to try them. They are incredible--just make sure you spread the chocolate in one motion so you don't pull up the graham layer.

                          Have fun with the veggie platter plan--let us know what you serve! I love veggies and crudité. If I am serving a vegetable that my children don't enjoy-- I just pull out the veggies and dip for them to get their daily fix.

                      2. As a follow-up, I used many of your suggestions and made two beautiful veggie trays for my party. At the end of the evening, there wasn't much left but the swiss chard I used as a base. Thank you for your great suggestions.

                        1. Red bell peppers are amazing. Try broccolini instead of broccoli. Try some homemade hummus too. Nice for dipping all kinds of things in.

                          I think the fingerling potatoes sound fantastic too.