Turning Vegetables Into Appetizers

by Jane Wangersky | January 30th, 2015 | Cooking Basics
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carrots and celery (400x400)Ah, the raw vegetable platter. Every buffet, whether it’s just appetizers or a full meal, seems to have one. Articles on entertaining tell you to provide one for anyone who’s dieting; articles on sticking to your diet tell you to fill up your plate from it. There’s usually a tub of creamy dip in the middle of the platter to enhance — well, hide — the taste of the carrot sticks and so forth. And yet, though the raw vegetable platter’s virtually a mandatory party dish, it never seems to be a popular one.

Fortunately, just a little rethinking can turn vegetables into more enticing appetizers.

First, rethink the kinds of vegetables you offer. Avocados, artichoke hearts, olives, and even pickles are vegetables just as much as celery, and a lot more flavorful. It’s true avocados are high in fat, but it’s the good or at least non-cholesterol kind. Tomatoes . . . are really fruit, but most people don’t think of them that way, and most people like them. Roasted seaweed in small slices is just as salty as chips, and a lot better for you.

The not-so-delicious vegetables can be helped out without turning them into a caloric disaster. Try marinating a mixture of raw vegetables in fat-free vinaigrette salad dressing, or roasting sweet peppers before serving. Making hummus (or an approximation) out of garbanzos gives you a dip that’s creamy, but nearly all vegetable. Salsa is full of vegetables too, as well as flavor.

Celery can at least look a lot more interesting if you cut one end of a stalk into thin strips, put that end in cold water, and leave it there for an hour or so. The strips will curl up, making the celery look like a tiny tree. Do this at the last minute, though, because the effect doesn’t last. Green onions will also curl up, much faster, under the same treatment.

Gazpacho — cold vegetable soup — served in shot glasses can be another take on vegetable appetizers. So can stuffed mushrooms, though strictly speaking mushrooms aren’t vegetables but fungi. They’re plant food, and that’s close enough. The linked recipe uses butter, so it’s not low fat, but at least it’s all natural fat.

So, you don’t need to settle for the generic raw vegetable platter with its celery and carrot sticks laid out around a blob of sour cream dip. A few simple steps taken in planning and preparation will help you move beyond it.

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