Linda explores food facts, folklore, and fabulous recipes one ingredient at a time.
What Is a Crudité?
I know a few of you might be puzzling over this word. What is a crewd-ight? Perhaps it's a new word for you. Here's the dictionary definition:
[kroo-di-tay; French kry-dee-tay]
- an appetizer consisting of a variety of raw vegetables, usually cut into strips or bite-size pieces, and served with a dip.
My mom's veggie platters—and most that you will find at your local grocery store deli—consisted of baby carrots (which aren't young carrots at all, just old carrots pared down to bite-size), celery sticks and (with luck) some pale, tasteless cherry tomatoes. We can do better than that. Let's get started!
“My parents had drinks, and there were crudités for us—although they were not called crudités at the time; they were called carrots and celery.”
— Nora Ephron
Choose Fresh Vegetables That Are in Season
Most large grocery stores carry a wide assortment of fresh produce 365 days a year, but not all of it is truly fresh. If you live in the Northern Hemisphere during the winter months, you might very well be consuming fruits and vegetables from halfway around the globe or local produce that has been held in cold storage for weeks and weeks.
For the freshest, most flavorful foods, try to stick to a seasonal produce calendar.
|Season||Seasonal Veggies||Seasonal Fruits|
Broccoli, cauliflower, artichokes, radishes
Grapefruit, oranges, papayas, pears, tangelos
Asparagus, spring peas, zucchini
Pineapples, cherries, mangoes, strawberries
Cucumbers, green beans, peppers, tomatoes
Bllueberries, apricots, canteloupe, mangoes, peaches, watermelon, plums, raspberries
Cauliflower, green beans, spinach, broccoli
apples, figs, persimmons, grapes, oranges, pears
"Crudités are not just a haphazard bowl of cut-up carrot and celery sticks. They are closer to a good still life, an artful edible exhibit."
— Martha Stewart
Make One or Two Amazing Dips/Sauces
Most grocery store deli platters are accompanied by a hefty cup of ranch dressing. That's fine; I have no complaint with ranch. In fact, I devoted an entire article on ranch dressing a year ago. But there are so many other possibilities.
There are so many creative ways to design a crudité plate, and the dip/sauce shouldn't be an afterthought. It's a part of the whole wonderful plan. You can create a dip with a specific color, flavor profile, or ethnic theme in mind.
To get you started (and away from ranch dressing for a moment), I've two recipes to share with you. The first is creamy, herby, and slightly spicy with fresh garlic. The second is vegan and dairy-free, slightly sweet, and smoky with roasted red bell peppers.
Tzatziki: The Greek Food With an Indian Heritage
The word tzatziki derives from the Persian word zhazh, meaning herb mixture. Like pita bread, it seems that in Greece, the yogurt/cucumber sauce appears on every table every day. To learn the history of this condiment, I went to The Greek on Wheels, which tells us:
A long time ago, when the Ottoman Empire was still in full trading swing, India was enjoying the simple pleasures of raita sauce, a seasoned yogurt-based dip. During this time, the Indian people were ruled by an elite Persian class that enjoyed the North Indian rice dish known as biryani.
However, the Indians would make the rice dish too spicy for the palette of the Persian elite. To balance out the fire of the spices, the Persians began to enjoy the soothing taste of the raita sauce. Cool as cucumber and soothing as yogurt, this classic Indian sauce was the perfect solution to the spicy rice.
When the Persians went back to the Middle East, they took the raita dish with them, and the beguiling sauce entranced culinary aficionados. More than any other nation in the Ottoman Empire, the Greeks enjoyed this dish immensely. However, they also experimented with this classic cucumber and yogurt dip until its Indian roots were almost invisible. Tzatziki was born.
So, tzatziki and raita are culinary cousins, but where they differ is in the fresh herbs and spices used. Raita (a recipe here) is flavored with cilantro and, typically, garam masala. Tzatziki relies on dill weed, fresh lemon, and a touch of garlic stirred into the creamy yogurt/cucumber mix.
- 1 English cucumber, diced small
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt (don't use table salt)
- 2 cups plain Greek Yogurt
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- zest from 1 lemon
- 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- 2 tablespoons fresh dill, finely minced
- 1 tablespoon fresh chives, finely minced
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, or more to taste (don't use table salt)
- First, prepare the cucumber by removing the seeds. Slice it lengthwise and use the tip of a teaspoon to scrape out the seeds. Dice finely (1/4 is perfect), toss with 1 teaspoon of Kosher salt and place in a colander. Allow it to drain for 30 minutes (the salt will help to draw out the water in the cucumber).
- After the 30-minute rest, squeeze the cucumber to remove as much liquid as possible (don't rinse off the salt).
- Combine the prepared cucumber with the yogurt, garlic, lemon zest and juice, fresh dill, chives, and black pepper. Taste for seasoning and add more salt if needed.
- Cover and chill for about an hour before serving.
Vegan Roasted Red Pepper
Roasted red bell peppers in the jar are sweet and smokey, they taste nothing like raw peppers, and they're also ridiculously expensive. Here's a new trick to add to your repertoire in the kitchen—you can roast your own red bell peppers. Aysegul shows you how in this beautifully-photographed post and then helps you turn them into a brightly colored roasted red pepper dip that's full of vitamins A and C and, as a bonus, is vegan.
Use an Imaginative Foundation/Platter
You don't need to go to a specialty kitchen shop to purchase a platter for your crudités. Here are some suggestions of what you can use (I'll bet you have one or more of these in your pantry):
- paella pan
- marble slab for rolling pastry
- shallow-rimmed baking sheet
- serving tray
- various-sized Mason jars/jelly jars (one for each veggie item)
Think About Color, Theme, Arrangement
One of the beautiful aspects of crudité platters is the presentation. Lean into your creative side by paying attention to these visual aspects of the arrangement.
I've found several examples of creative ways to arrange a crudité platter. For example, you might consider vegetables in one color family or select an assortment that can be arranged like the colors of the rainbow.
Martha Stewart assembled this lovely green platter with ingredients that are easy to obtain, inexpensive, and beautiful in their simplicity. Expand on the amounts for a larger crowd, or make a small plate for two to share with someone special. The tzatziki dip would be a perfect accompaniment.
In the words of its creator, this spooky platter would be a "violaceous" violet Halloween appetizer. Not only is purple/violet a delightfully sinister hue, but the fruits and vegetables needed for this platter are in season in the Autumn when days are short and the shadows of the evening are deep and dark. Castellon's purple crudité and cheese tray will make a stunning display at your Halloween party.
Learn how to make hummus dips in four different colors and serve them with some of these vegetables, sorted by color:
- Red/Orange: Red cabbage, radishes, rainbow carrots (assortment of burgundy and orange)
- Yellow/Cream: Rainbow carrots (yellow), parsnips, cauliflower, white radishes, Belgian endive
- Greens: Romaine lettuce hearts, cucumber, green onions, broccoli rabe
The "vivid violet" board shown above is one theme (dark, spooky, and Halloween-ish), but there are so many other possibilities. Here are a few suggestions.
I know that I can always rely on Chunguh's blog (Damndelicious) to provide beautifully photographed, easy-to-make, and delicious meals. Her mezze platter features all of the elements of a perfect Greek meal—olives, artichoke hearts, cucumber, tomato, and (of course) a hummus dip.
Bagna cauda is truly Italian and truly delicious; this dip (served hot) is an overindulgence, a guilty pleasure, and something you need to try at least once in your life. It's customary as part of a New Year's celebration, rich with melted butter and heavy cream, spicy with raw garlic (lots of raw garlic), and full of explosive umami flavor with tinned anchovies that melt and blend into the sauce. The Mediterranean diet abounds with wonderful vegetables—broccoli rabe, artichokes, olives, celery, mushrooms, radicchio, fennel, tomatoes, zucchini, and eggplant.
East meets West in this fusion of the Asian flavors of ginger and soy sauce in a creamy mayonnaise-based dip. Rita pairs this easy recipe with snow peas or sugar snap peas, carrots, cucumbers, broccoli florets, and red peppers sliced into strips. This Asian dip and veggie platter takes just minutes to assemble and can be prepared ahead of time.
© 2021 Linda Lum