As I'm typing this I feel kinda strange about sharing something as basic as a "how to" vegetable tray. But that "why" feeling fades when I remember back to the day when I was new to catering and clueless on how much to purchase and prepare.
Just a side note: This is the third post on basics and I was surprised to see how often "How to Make a Fruit Tray" and "How to Make a Party Cheese Tray post" were searched.
Most parties I attend still put out some sort of vegetable appetizer, especially when there are a wide variety of diets to consider. Both a vegetable tray and a veggie stick platter appear in "Cook like a Caterer, because of their simple yet important staple of party fare.
Below is a guide for approximate amounts to prepare for about 25 guests. The fresh spinach dip is cool and delicious, feel free to serve your favorite dip along with the tray.
Raw vegetable crudite is a welcome snack at any party and the fresh spinach dip is classic. Hollowed out produce, vases or flower pots are great containers for the spinach dip. Lined baskets and even a cupcake pan can make interesting display platters for the vegetables.
Serves 25 (2 ounces of vegetables per person after preparation)
¾ pound zucchini
¾ pound yellow squash
¾ pound cucumber
1½ pounds celery
1½ pounds carrots
1 large red bell pepper
1 large green bell pepper
1 pound cauliflower
¾ pound broccoli
6 ounces mushrooms
1 pint cherry tomatoes
Fresh Spinach Dip
Makes 2⅓ cups
1 bunch green chopped
1 garlic clove minced
12 ounces fresh spinach stemmed
½ cup mayonnaise
1 cup sour cream
1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon onion powder
½ teaspoon hot pepper sauce
¼ teaspoon kosher salt
black pepper freshly ground
- Put green onions, garlic and spinach in a food processor and pulse 2 to 3 times.
- Add mayonnaise, sour cream, lemon zest, lemon juice, hot sauce, onion powder, salt and season with pepper. Puree until smooth.
- Transfer to a bowl, cover, and refrigerate for at least 1 hour (or up to 3 days). Stir the dip and serve with vegetables.
Vegetable Selection and Preparation
- Substitute any suggested vegetable for something that you prefer or double up on favorites, placing in separate sections on the tray.
- Choose crisp, firm, high quality vegetables. Fresh vegetables will have a mild scent, no brown spots or soft/slick areas.
- Wash all vegetables thouroughly and store in separte containers (if prepping ahead) to preserve flavor.
- Colorful vegetables are beautiful and appetizing. Choose more then one variety of a vegetable, like purple broccoli or yellow/green cauliflower to brighten the tray.
- Use seasonal vegetables like asparagus or green beans, which can be slightly blanched to be brighter and tender.
- Other raw vegetables like radishes, whole pea pods and jicama offer interesting color and flavor.
- Store pre-cut vegetables have a short shelf life so cleaning and cutting the vegetables yourself will give you a better quality.
- Choose some colorful kale or large edible leaves to line the platter or garnish with herbs.
- Prepare at least 2 ounces of prepared vegetables per guest. For small gatherings put out a little more.
- Make cuts in broccoli and cauliflower, so guests have a "handle."
To make a try seem fuller, build a bed of curly kale before you set the vegetables on it.
Placing the dip in the center of the tray will help it take shape and create a focal point.
For a small event, arrange smaller glass bowls on a roomy platter, stand up vegetable sticks in the glasses.
Other great garnishes are olives, canned or pickled vegetables (like baby corn).
Serve 2 to 3 ounces of dip per person.