For both entertaining and family meals I love to create a veggie platter/relish tray/crudités- you can choose the name that best suits the occasion and mood. This is a great way to move things out of your garden on a daily basis. It is wonderful to have a platter of fresh, vibrant veggies waiting for your guests when they arrive.
When it’s just us at home, I often put out a small tray of cut-up vegetables before dinner. The kids are hungry and ready to munch, it is a healthy and easy way to get the kids to eat their veggies and then I don’t have to nag them throughout the dinner- which makes it much more enjoyable for everyone!
When prepping produce, I cut the root vegetables (such as carrots, radishes, etc.) in half length wise and leave about two inches of the stem so guests have a little handle for dipping, and it keeps the hands from touching the dip too. If I am using beans or another long vegetable that would require two dips, I cut them in half. Not only is this more manageable, it minimizes that pesky temptation to double dip. Often, I will grill or roast some things so there is a collection of cooked and raw. This adds a nice depth to a platter or dish.
For presentation, I like to do groups of color on the plate or platter. I seek out interesting and surprising color twists- green tomatoes, yellow beans or red carrots. At the market, look for a couple special items that are pretty and tasty. When you plate the vegetables grab all of the stems in your hand and lay them down on the platter in one direction. I don’t like it to look too rigid; a looser, less polished vibe gives it a more organic feeling. I aim to have all the veggies going in the same general direction, kind of like how they appear in your garden.
Most of the time, I will create one large family style platter with multiple dips. For a more elegant event I like to make individual plates with a small ramekin of dip. This is a nice way to offer an appetizer to guests who don’t necessarily know each other and maybe would not be comfortable to share a family style experience.
Here are a few of my favorite, go-to dips…
3 bunches or 4 cups nasturtium flowers, cleaned and dryed
1 cup grated parmesan
2 garlic cloves
Juice and zest of 1/2 a lemon
½ cup olive oil
1/2 tsp Salt
1/8 tsp red pepper flakes
Put all the ingredients in the food processor. Taste to adjust seasoning. This is also great for pasta too.
White Anchovy Bagna Cauda
Serves 8. Recipe inspired by Alice Waters.
This dip is great for entertaining and a chance to showcase both raw and roasted seasonal veggies. Resist the temptation to use the ordinary veggies often found on these type of platters and try something new, from your garden or at the farmer’s market.
This can be made in advanced and is so easy and delicious. A handful of 6 – 8 different seasonal veggies are perfect for this platter. I like to choose veggies based both on what is in my garden and what will be visually beautiful on a platter.
20 fillets of white anchovies
6 cloves of garlic
Salt and pepper
1 cup good quality extra-virgin olive oil
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 teaspoon lemon juice
Zest from ½ a lemon
With a mortar and pestle pound the garlic to a paste with a little salt and pepper. Add the anchovies and pound some more until they are roughly mashed. In a small cast iron skillet, warm the butter and olive oil over medium-low heat. Add half the anchovy, lemon and zest and simmer for 2 minutes. Stir in the remaining anchovy mixture, taste for salt and pepper and transfer the sauce to a warmed bowl or individual ramekins.
1 ripe avocado
1 clove of garlic minced
1 teaspoon Greek yogurt
1 finely chopped Hungarian wax pepper or chili pepper of your choice.
Salt and pepper
Feta cheese for garnish
With a fork mash avocados in a small bowl and mix the rest of the ingredients until creamy. Sprinkle with feta and serve.