French vegetable plate
There are as many varieties of this dish as there are vegetables in the garden – and even more. A plate of crudités may include mounds of grated carrot, tomato rounds, green beans, beets, sliced potatoes, radishes, olives, chopped fennel, sliced celery, celery root in remoulade sauce, Belgian endive, raw mushrooms, cooked lentils, steamed leeks, steamed or raw cauliflower, chopped green or red pepper, asparagus tips, peas, melon … whatever!
When you compose the plate, pay attention to color. In the same way that the French trim the trees in their formal gardens into geometrical shapes, they prepare this salad with an eye to aesthetics. The vegetables are not mixed together but set out prettily in little mounds, then dressed with a vinaigrette sauce. There is usually a boiled egg to brighten the plate. You’ll find this pleasing to the eye as well as the palate.
Crudités is a dish for all seasons — and I try to keep it seasonal, i.e. I wouldn’t put a spring vegetable like asparagus on a crudités plate in the autumn. The recipe below is one version of a winter vegetable plate. Don’t hesitate to improvise and create your own.
1 large carrot
1 cooked beet
2 small potatoes
1/2 clove garlic, finely minced
2 handfuls lamb’s lettuce or arugula
fresh herbs, finely snipped: parsley, cilantro, dill, chives or basil
salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tbsp. mustard vinaigrette or lemon-olive oil sauce
Prepare the vegetables: Peel and grate the carrot. Peel and chop the beet, mix with the minced garlic. Peel the potatoes, boil or steam until just tender, slice into rounds. Wash the lamb’s lettuce or arugula and spin dry.
Place the egg in a pot of cold water over high heat. From the moment the water boils cook exactly 5 minutes, then drain and cover the egg with cold water. Repeat. Let the egg rest a few minutes. Peel and slice in half.
Place small mounds of each vegetable on individual plates, with the egg halves in the middle. Season with salt, pepper and vinaigrette. Sprinkle with fresh herbs. Serves 2.
You can make your assiettes de crudités as simple or elaborate as you like. Using just 2 veggies is fine — simple bistros often do it this way. On the other hand, on special occasions you may want to create a beautiful megaplate with 6 or 8 different elements.
When in a hurry, I sometimes don’t bother to make a vinaigrette but just spritz the veggies with lemon juice, sprinkle on some salt and pepper, and pour on a fine stream of olive oil from a small beaker. Not quite as elegant, but just as tasty.
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