Although you might have fond memories of carrot sticks and Ranch dressing, it might be the last thing you’d serve at a party. That said, it’s the courteous hostess who provides something healthy for those noble guests who prefer raw and crunchy over warm and gooey. So here is how we handle the ho-hum crudite dilemma—with a fresh twist on the dips as well as the dippers.
The first step for a stand out crudite plate is to break free of the carrot-celery-broccoli rut. Sometimes just a twist in vegetable selection is fun: Use all white vegetables (cauliflower, jicama, peeled new potatoes, etc.) for an elegant winter party, or a big bowl with a jumble of whole artichokes for a more rustic feel. You can also use traditional vegetables but present them in a new way:
Cucumber spears instead of coins.
Real baby carrots with stems still attached rather than carrot sticks.
Baby squash instead of spears or coins.
Or mix it up by adding unexpected vegetables:
Lightly steamed asparagus
A few whole artichokes, or stacks of artichoke leaves
Long slender green beans
Steamed baby potatoes
Portabello mushroom slivers
Blanched Brussels sprouts
Belgian endive leaves
Calorie-laden dips based on sour cream and mayonnaise kind of defeat the purpose and are generally bland anyway, so why not try these healthier and vibrant-tasting dips instead?
Walnut Red Pepper Dip
2 fresh roasted red peppers, or 1 8-ounce jar roasted red peppers, rinsed and drained
1 cup fresh bread crumbs (preferably from a whole-wheat baguette)
1 small garlic clove
1/4 teaspoon cumin
1/4 cup walnuts
2 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
1. Place all ingredients except oil in food processor and puree until almost smooth.
2. Add oil in a slow stream with motor running until thick and smooth. Serve.
Leek And Goat Cheese Dip
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 medium leeks, white and pale-green parts only, thinly sliced
1 16-ounce container low fat Greek yogurt
1 14-ounce log fresh, creamy goat cheese
1 tablespoon chopped cilantro
1 tablespoon chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
Salt and pepper
1. In a medium saute pan, heat olive oil over medium low heat. Add leeks and saute until soft and translucent, about 5 minutes.
2. Place yogurt and goat cheese in a medium bowl, and stir until well combined. Add leeks, cilantro, parsley, salt and pepper. Serve.
Roasted Garlic Aioli
1 large bulb of garlic, roasted
2 egg yolks (see note)
1 small lemon, juiced
1/4 cup water
1/4 teaspoon salt
Cayenne pepper to taste
1 1/2 cups extra virgin olive oil
1. Squeeze the garlic out of the roasted garlic bulb and place in a food processor or blender with egg yolks, garlic, lemon juice, water, salt and cayenne pepper. Purée until smooth.
2. With the motor running, add 1 1/2 cups oil in a slow, steady stream and continue processing until emulsified.
Note: If you have concerns about using raw eggs, you can soft boil the eggs first, remove the still-runny yolk and let cool.