How to Build an Anything-But-Boring Crudité Platter

December 18, 2017

Exhausting as it is, I love this time of the year. On Saturday, we schlepped the children to three different holiday parties, the first starting at 4 p.m., the last ending, I imagine, many hours after we arrived home at a raging 8:30 pm, when we all promptly sacked out. In between, we saw dear friends and sampled many a favorite party trick, including hot cheese olives, herbed goat cheese and root vegetable galette, and a retro cream cheese-bound egg salad dip topped with caviar.

I love these dishes, the ones that emerge once or twice a year, that everyone relishes and then forgets until this time next year. I have my favorites, too: The Barefoot Contessa’s baked fontina, Martha Stewart’s hot crab dip, ABC Kitchen's squash toasts with homemade ricotta, and my grandmother’s tiropitas.

Cheese—often hot cheese—is the common denominator. Warm, bubbly concoctions never fail to draw the masses. But there's one appetizer I love just as much, which shares none of the aforementioned dishes' qualities. I learned it several years ago from a food stylist who found himself entertaining many gluten-free and vegan friends. Rather than make a host of different appetizers to accommodate his guests, he made one that appealed to everyone: quartered heads of Little Gem lettuces with green goddess dressing. It may sound boring in relation to other seasonal offerings, but it’s become a favorite of mine as well, and one that is always well received.

Don't underestimate these ingredients. Photo by Alexandra Stafford

I use Alice Waters’s recipe for green goddess dressing from Chez Panisse Vegetables, which begins—as many of her dressings do—by macerating shallots and garlic with vinegar and citrus, a step that both tempers the bite of the shallot and draws out its sweetness. After 10 minutes, anchovies, avocado, herbs, olive oil and a splash of cream are whisked in till the mixture resembles a thin guacamole, creamy but textured with a nice, sharp bite. Though the anchovies add a subtle depth of flavor, they could easily be omitted to keep it vegan, and though the cream adds a richness without making the dressing heavy, it, too, can be left out and replaced with more olive oil to keep it dairy-free.

It's crucial to macerate these shallots. Photo by Alexandra Stafford

This green goddess dip is bright and refreshing, and though I love it on a hot summer day, I’m never more appreciative of it than right now, when I've nearly had my fill of all the oozy, cheesy goodness I can find.

A platter to help cut through all that richness. Photo by Alexandra Stafford

A Few Tips

Little Gems can be hard to find, but they are worth seeking out for their nice size and texture—call ahead before running around from shop to shop. Some markets will order them for you. Romaine, however, makes a great substitute; the inner leaves, in particular, are perfectly sized for dipping. Endive and Treviso are great alternatives as well both for their shape and crispness.

Pickling adds a nice, puckery twist. Photo by Alexandra Stafford

Pickle some of the vegetables. Including a few pickled vegetables adds an unexpected and welcomed dimension of flavor. Here, I’ve pickled the cauliflower and carrots using a method I learned from David Lebovitz. He uses for radishes, which would also be really nice here.

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Make it ahead: The green goddess dressing can be made up to 2 days in advance. Bring it up (or nearly up) to room temperature before serving—it firms up in the fridge, which makes it difficult to dip into. The vegetables can be pickled weeks in advance. Other vegetables, such as endive and Treviso, are best when cut just before serving to keep browning to a minimum.

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • robin lewis
    robin lewis
  • PHIL
  • BerryBaby
  • HalfPint
  • Alexandra Stafford
    Alexandra Stafford
I write the blog alexandra's kitchen, a place for mostly simple, sometimes fussy, and always seasonal recipes. My cookbook, Bread Toast Crumbs is available everywhere books are sold.


robin L. December 22, 2017
This sounds so good...I love the idea of raw vegs and some pickled....I recently fell in love with thinly sliced roasted watermelon radishes, and when I couldn't find them, regular radishes worked ok... I'm goiing to make this for Xmas!!
Alexandra S. December 22, 2017
I get so many watermelon radishes in my CSA, but I've never tried roasting them — such a great idea! Thanks so much.
robin L. December 22, 2017
drizzle of olive oil, salt and pepper...they (watermelon radishes) almost take like chips!!
robin L. December 22, 2017
Alexandra S. December 22, 2017
YUM! Cannot wait.
PHIL December 21, 2017
I like adding the pickling idea. I usually make a half hearted effort on the crudite as everyone seems to go for the meat and cheese boards. The right dip is crucial so I will give the green goddess a try. Thanks for the tips and have a nice holiday.
Alexandra S. December 21, 2017
I know, I didn't care about crudite for years either... I always go for the meat and cheese. But I love this green goddess dressing and love it with pickled veg, and I'm dying to add some roasted veg, per HalfPint's suggestion below, to my next crudite arrangement. I hope you like the green goddess dressing, too. Great to hear from you! Happy holidays, Phil!
BerryBaby December 21, 2017
Roasted carrots and onions
Alexandra S. December 21, 2017
Yum, love!
HalfPint December 20, 2017
The best crudite platter that I ever had included roasted root vegetables. It was served with a garlic aioli. I did know that I could get excited about parsnips, but they were the best part!
HalfPint December 20, 2017
sorry that should be "I didn't know...".
Alexandra S. December 20, 2017
Yum that sounds amazing! I adore roasted parsnips. They're like candy to me. Love the idea of including roasted vegetables on a crudite platter. Next time for sure. Happy Holidays HalfPint!!