With the coming of Spring, vegetables are sprouting again and becoming the darlings of home gardeners. Once harvested they will be featured on many chefs’ menus. In my kitchen I am working on many new presentations and recipes to serve them both at my club and at home as well. Chilled vegetable trays (known as cruditées) are commonly included in many buffets and receptions and too often prepared in a boring and unimaginative way but this does not have to be the case. When created with care they can be lovely and enticing. When artfully paired with dressings, cheese spreads, and chilled salads they can be raised to almost ethereal heights.
In this presentation cruditées are served in shot glasses with buttermilk ranch dressing, served on a plate with blanched zucchini ribbons and a carrot curl flower, offset with a inner leaf of purple kale. In my garden I noticed the tulips shared the same color hue as the carrots and couldn’t help but think of how they could be rendered into a playful presentation for a vegetable presentation.
Celery stuffed with blue cheese is a common paring of cheese and vegetables. In this rendition I made a spread of Maytag blue cheese and cream cheese and then piped it into the celery before topping it with pickled vegetables. In this case I used baby corn, gherkin pickles, kalamata olives, queen green olives stuffed with pimento and garnished with the inner leaves of celery. Try them with your favorite Martini if you are so inclined.
Blanched marinated asparagus is nothing new to chilled vegetable displays. In these trays I created a two-bite appetizer by wrapping the asparagus with grilled endive leaves spread with a whipped soft goat cheese. Notice how I cut the asparagus stalks into 2 1/2″ lengths on a bias. This way I was able to utilize two thirds of the stalk instead of just the tips, reserving the woody base for later use in a asparagus, leek and potato soup.
These dainty cucumber bases were made with English cucumbers because they contain less seeds then the typical cucumber variety. I created them by first using a channel knife to cut long grooves in the cucumbers before slicing them into one-inch lengths. This not only lends a more artful eye appeal to the cucumber but it also makes them easier to eat since the peel is fibrous and can be hard to chew. The next step was to scoop out the center with a melon baller (classically called a Parisian scoop). After that I piped a cream cheese and butter spread which I call canape butter into the cucumber base. I then cut flowers from radishes and filled them with a pearl couscous salad. I prepared this salad with a light dressing of extra virgin olive oil and white balsamic vinegar and tiny diced carrots, celery and onions, which I sautéed and cooked with the couscous before chilling and tossing with the vinaigrette. Although these little two bite creations take some time to make they will surely garner compliments from your guests and friends.
One thing is for certain, if you choose to offer cold vegetables in these ways you can surely make this statement- Who says cold vegetables are boring!