Who would’ve thought a platter of veggies would win over your guests’ hearts? Trust me. Especially in this age of “wellness,” a bread-free board will be a refreshing starter to any gathering, whether the dress code is heels in the living room or bare feet on the patio. The concept reflects my favorite cooking philosophy—let your meal’s ingredients guide your party color palette! For summer, the brightest greens, reds and purples arrive in the produce section. Later in the fall, I’ll try a squash-focused version with golds and oranges. Follow my tips below and, believe me, crudités will never, ever get old.
1. Begin with seasonally-driven fresh vegetables
Though it may sound stressful, I encourage you to not plan the majority of vegetables for your crudités board in advance. Let the seasonality and availability of produce carry you through the grocery store or farmers market. Mainstays such as cucumber and radish are a given, but who knows what you might discover!
For this board, we elected asparagus, sugar snap peas, shishitos, artichoke, purple cauliflower, cucumber, radish, and jicama.
2. Prep your veggies in bite-size pieces
Don’t make your party guests do the work—prep , slice, and score your vegetables for minimal maintenance during the gathering. No one wants to feel pressured to avoid a double-dip mistake. Forks shouldn’t be required, either!
3. Whirl up a smooth dip (or two)
I use my Vitamix to whip up tapenades, hummus or white bean dip (I love Love & Lemons’ recipe here) that complements raw produce rather perfectly. In addition, a fresh basil pesto adds rich complexity to your board. Drizzling some extra virgin olive oil atop the pesto creates a vinaigrette-style dipper.
4. Visually anchor your board—with an artichoke.
A steamed or grilled artichoke sets the stage for a serious veggie spread. Whenever I style a board, I encourage a visual anchor that you can functionally build off of with other ingredients. Once I set my artichoke on the cutting board, I fan out my cucumbers from its right, bunch some cauliflower against the left, etc. etc.
5. Implement an unexpected interactive component.
I understand cheese is not a crudité, but can you blame me? A Caramelized gathering is never complete without cheese! I added some mini fresh mozzarella balls, which I encouraged guests to dip in fresh basil pesto. The smooth and mild texture of mozzarella is a great match for a veggie board. Every time I suggest the mozz dip into pesto, guests have never before tried the combo. Try it next time you host!
6. Challenge the definition of “crudites”
Crudité technically means “raw” vegetables, but room-temperature blistered or blanched vegetables add a variety of texture that I recommend. Blistered shishitos brighten the palette and pair well with dipping sauces. In addition, I prefer my asparagus cooked, so I cook mine in boiling water for 2 minutes until bright green and crisp — then I plunge them into an ice bath.