Crudite Centerpiece for Splashy Appetizer Table
Everyone agrees that fresh veggies and dip are a delicious and important part of a good appetizer table, but sadly the most common thing most people do is just cut up a bunch of vegetables and put them on a plate with a bowl of dip. If you really want to wow your guests and have some fun in the process, consider making one of these splashy crudite centerpieces! You can save the money on a flower display as well - there's nothing more beautiful and colorful than "food as art"!
Last Saturday I volunteered to make just such a healthy food arrangement for The Woodstock Artists Association and Museum, as they were having a fundraising event and had asked various local businesses to donate food. I woke up inspired and thought I would go online to find some new ideas. Sadly, there was very little of interest - thus the birth of this blog post!! The world needs to know how to make one of these crudité creations - so I got out my camera and took pictures of each step along the way. There's nothing complicated about it, but it will take a few hours. I'm lucky to have our wonderful kitchen staff available to cut up all the veggies for me - but from there - all I did was have a good time!
Crudités & the Perfect Platter
I started by looking for the right platter - very important. You'll need to find one with some depth to it - I've also used deep planters or planter baskets for the base. Last summer I made small centerpieces for individual tables using clay pots. (see blog post http://www.bluemountainbistro.com/_blog/Bistro_Blog/calendar/2011/6/). It's important that the main ingredient, wheat grass, sets down into something so it can be stabilized and the roots covered. (I've also considered that a flat platter could be used and the base of the root portion of the grass could be wrapped with an attractive wide ribbon and then pinned together as another option.)
Healthy Appetizer Ideas for your Wild Culinary Imagination
The next very important ingredient is a flat of wheat grass. We purchase ours from our vegetable purveyor, but you could inquire at your local grocery store to see if they would special order some for you. I put a piece of cardboard in the bottom of the platter to raise the level 1/2" or so and then set the grass in.
Next I took a large savoy cabbage and cut off the largest of the bottom leaves. Savoy cabbage leaves are stunningly beautiful - and set them on the four corners of the platter. I scored the center of each leaf and trimmed a tiny bit so they would lie flat to the grass.
Then I cut the top of the cabbage off and slowly hollowed out the center, being careful not to get too close to the edge, to make a "bowl" for the dip. I placed this in the center as this display would be seen from all sides. (If it were going against a wall, I might have chosen to place the "bowl" in the front center and build the vegetables all around it.)
Next I took the lightly steamed broccoli stems and placed them around the base of the grass - to fill in the gap between the grass and the platter. Then the lightly steamed white and yellow cauliflower were placed on top of the broccoli. (Steaming these veggies brings out their flavor - no one wants to eat raw broccoli or cauliflower!) You really can have fun with this and use any kind of veggies for the base, but I love these textures together and think they make a great anchor for the spears which will come next.
Skewer Those Multicolor Veggies
I have a good selection of different sized wooden skewers that we use for various appetizers. These can be purchased online at a great store called www.pickonus.com. I like to have a selection of lengths to work with, as the grass is fairly tall when it's fresh (about 4") - and when you stick the skewer into the grass the veggies should sit near the top of the grass. I start by separating the colors and putting all of one color in first, in this case the yellow and then the orange carrots. I put them on the longest skewers I had. I liked the way that looked so I added the celery at the same height. I decided to put the jicama on shorter skewers so they would be lower into the grass. We cut the cucumbers as rounds and scored the sides so they were really festive - they looked like cucumber lollipops! Grape tomatoes went on shorter picks as well as the very colorful red, yellow, and green peppers.
You really can use your imagination and use any combination of vegetables. The most important thing is to pay attention to color masses - I've gone for an overall confetti effect in this case, but you could also make a striking ensemble with bands of color - keeping all of one veggie together in a group. Whatever your choice, it's a fun way to play with food and wow your guests at the same time.
We make a delicious blue cheese dip to accompany most crudite displays, but any fresh herb-infused yogurt based dip or an aioli would be equally delicious. If you're looking for a vegan option you could also use hummus or baba ganoush. Since I was bringing this to a party, I brought a container of the dip and placed it into the cabbage bowl once I had set it up on the appetizer table. Have fun and enjoy!
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