I’m usually not a huge fan of crudités platters, the obligatory plate of veggies (and usually a sour cream-based dip) that seems to show up on every buffet table. Somehow they always seem to be passed over for more exciting dishes, and they’re usually still full of dried-out broccoli by the end of the evening.
That said, I’ve made a couple of different crudités platters this month for a few different reasons. I was asked to contribute one to a potluck dinner, and right before my Fourth of July barbecue I discovered a crisper full of vegetables was begging to be used up.
But how to get folks to eat veggies when there would be plates of sexier food all around?
First, decided to make a duo of dips. One was a fairly traditional sour cream-based dip with garlic, herbs, and big hunks of blue cheese crumbled into it. I wanted a contrasting dip (no mayo, no sour cream), but veggies require something fairly rich to take them out of the realm of rabbit food. On a whim, I threw together the following ingredients, which were already in my pantry. I didn’t measure them terribly carefully, so I can’t vouch for exact quantities until I retest it, but it seems like it would be pretty hand to mess this up. Just tweak it until it’s the right blend of rich, spicy, and nutty.
Peanut Butter-Curry Dip
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 shallots, minced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 jalapeno, seeded and minced
1 tablespoon Thai red curry paste
1 cup chicken stock
1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lime juice
1 tablespoon palm sugar
½ to 1 cup coconut milk
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Heat the oil in sauté pan over medium heat. Add the shallots, garlic, and jalapeno and sauté until the shallot is tender, about 2 minutes. Add the curry paste, chicken stock, peanut butter, lime juice, soy sauce, and palm sugar and whisk together until combined. Bring to a simmer and then remove from the heat. (Don’t worry if it looks curdled at this point.)
Let the peanut butter mixture cool slightly, then transfer to a food processor. Add ½ cup of the coconut milk and process until the ingredients are thoroughly combined and the mixture is emulsified. Add additional coconut milk if necessary to achieve the desired consistency.
Step two of trying to get my guests to eat their veggies: find an appealing way to present them. I usually don’t fuss too much with the presentation of foods that I serve, but I often make an exception for hors d’oeuvres, which seem to get eaten in direct proportion to how pretty they look. (Unless they’re fried or contain bacon, in which case you could just slop them on a paper plate.)
Poking around the kitchen I came across some little-used cocktail glasses I own, in which a v-shaped top fits into a square base that you fill with crushed ice. I removed the V tops, and voila, four containers of equal size for standing up the veggies.
I blanched the asparagus and green beans, sliced the bell peppers, and scrubbed the bejezus out of the cute lil’ baby carrots (honest – even though they still looked a little grubby). I tried to be super-clever and roll up long, thin slices of zucchini and skewer them on cocktail picks like little squashy lollipops, but I’m not that talented. And I’m in serious need of a new mandoline.
The upshot? At least 80% of the veggies were gone by the end of the party. Not exactly in the same ballpark at bacon bonbons or fried shrimp balls, but pretty good for veggies, I suppose.
If you have any suggestions about serving crudités platters, please share in the comments.