Break crudités out of the fancy box with these 3 recipes for zippy, spicy dips


I have this theory that crudités – now super Trendy and has many restaurant menus – never wanted to be as fancy as the word sounds. Sure, a talented chef serving gorgeous asparagus spears (maybe white ones?) Or radishes with their pristine, unblemished greens attached to vintage ceramics. But, for this column and in reality, if you’re just having friends over, a platter of beautiful sweet peppers or ripe tomato wedges with a simple, tasty sauce is actually a very humble thing to serve. It might say, “I like you, I like vegetables and I think you’ll like these vegetables, too.”

I’m not putting crudités in a box – they can be fancy or not – but it’s hard to deny that they are the perfect summer appetizer – and the markets are bountiful with vegetables you want to eat raw. That said, crudités platters are a solid year-round appetizer to keep in your back pocket.

There are some criteria. First, a crudités platter should have beautiful, but not necessarily “perfect” looking vegetables because, honestly, ugly veggies can sometimes taste better.

It’s also OK to have one or two non-veggies in the mix to round things out (this may seem like I’m immediately backtracking). For Blistered Sweet Peppers & Lavash With Spicy Pepper-Cashew-Carrot Dip, I very lightly and quickly blister the sweet peppers to add char flavor while keeping them crisp. In this same recipe, I call for toasted lavash: all you have to do is throw some big pieces on a sheet pan, drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and toast them in the door, and you’ll have the best crackers . The spicy cashew-carrot dip has a hummus-like texture, but is nuttier, spicier and sweeter.

Preserved lemon enriches mayonnaise for a cucumber and tomato plate.

Preserved lemon enriches mayonnaise for a cucumber and tomato plate.

Courtesy Christian Reynoso

That brings up another criteria: Most of the vegetables should be crisp, but not necessarily all. That way you can really taste the vegetables as-is, fresh and bright – a very good way to start a meal. I think a mix of crisp and leafy greens can be fun as in my very summer-y crudités of Tomatoes, Cucumbers & Basil With Preserved Lemon Mayonnaise. The cucumbers add crunch. The tomatoes are firm and still dippable. The basil isn’t a garnish here: It too should be dipped in with that tomato wedge.

Of course, there must be a dip – otherwise it’s just a “crude” platter, I say. Furthermore, the dip should pair with the vegetables you choose. If you’re serving multiple dips, try to make each one stand out. It can be as simple as the Preserved Lemon Mayonnaise, where I call for doctoring up store-bought Mayo.

For Green Beans, Little Gem Wedges & Radishes With Roasted Apricot-Garlic Labneh, the yogurt-based sauce is still simple but takes a little more time to make with the roasting, rotating, cooling, etc. Every passing minute is worth the bit of sweet caramelized garlic and savory apricot zipped up even more with a little turmeric. I top this with a golden crispy garlic and sizzled pine nut olive oil. It’s a joy to get a bite of crispy garlic between those tender-crisp leaves.

Roasted apricots and garlic take labneh to the next level as a dip for green beans and Little Gem lettuce.

Roasted apricots and garlic take labneh to the next level as a dip for green beans and Little Gem lettuce.

Courtesy Christian Reynoso

Lastly, there’s no need to have more than a couple (maybe three types) of vegetables to dip. It really is as simple as “less is more” – and do people really need to have those raw, crumbly cauliflower florets? The jicama? The Belgian endive (which has we pronouncing “ahndeev” out loud every time I see one)?

Whatever crudités you make, have fun when it comes to styling your platter. Questions I tend to ask myself are: Can these leaves or stems stay on? Will this leaf look sexy if it’s more wavy / scrunchy looking? Does the plate look “put together” or did I just plop these vegetables on here? Are there too many green vegetables on this platter or is this monochromatic theme actually cool looking? There’s not a lot of right or wrong answers here, but spend a few extra minutes enjoying the process. It’s hard not to have fun arranging a beautiful platter of the season’s best bounty.

Christian Reynoso is also a chef, recipe developer and writer. Originally from Sonoma, he lives in San Francisco. Email: food@sfchronicle.com Instagram: @christianreynoso Twitter: @xtianreynoso





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