The Keys to a Great Spring Vegetable Plate
Meet the I-Don’t-Want-To-Make-An-Appetizer appetizer you’re almost obligated to make this spring.
Good, fresh ingredients separate the crudites of the world from the vegetable platters — those seran-wrapped, pie chart-esque platters of bland, limp carrots and cauliflower with a slick of ranch in the center. (Celery doesn’t have a dog in this fight.) Baby carrots picked yesterday; snap peas with an audible crunch; radishes so pungent they make your eyes squint — these are what makes this absurdly simple, five minute arrangement work on so many levels.
Since most of the ingredients are served raw, they better be able to carry their weight in flavor. Don’t go into this with an opinionated grocery list. Go with what’s available, and let the season dictate what goes on the plate. All you have to do is follow this formula, then assemble. You’ll impress last-minute guests and hungry pre-dinner lurkers alike.
There are too many options to list in this category in the spring: snap peas, snow peas, any type of shelled pea. Give them a rinse. Strip off their strings, or don’t (depends on how much you like whoever’s eating).
Baby rainbow carrots reign supreme in my book: crunchy, colorful, built-in handles aka stems. Peel a layer off each carrot — this will get rid of the dirt, and make the colors even more vibrant. Trim the tops so there’s still a bit of green stem attached to the carrot. I also reach for fennel, baby radishes, and baby broccoli to mix things up.
Feel free to bypass this category and keep everything in raw territory if you’re short on patience— this part’s optional. But, if you want to make things a little more interesting, grab produce you can eat with your hands (cauliflower florets, asparagus stalks, spring onion) and quickly char them with a drizzle of oil and salt over high heat in a cast-iron pan or under the broiler for 8–10 minutes until browned and almost blackened. Let cool before arranging on the plate.
The final touch. Not only do greens bring the whole plate together, but they are equally great for dipping. You want something crisp that you can peel off leaf by leaf: little gems, endive, and radicchio are all great options. Separate the leaves, give them a rinse, and dry well.
Once everything is arranged on the plate, you’re going to want something to coat all those cool, crisp veg. I consider buttermilk ranch to be the defacto dressing for spring — that’s just my opinion (but also the right opinion). Ours is made in our kitchen with greek yogurt, which gives the dip a nice tang and lightens everything up.
Any kind of pesto is great here: you want something bright and zingy to dip the leafy and crisp components into. Our kitchen team uses walnuts and rosemary to give pesto an unexpected twist.