How to Put Together an Epic Party Board, Part 1: Fruit and Vegetable Crudité with Party Hummus

crudite hummus dip party board
Tonight we’re going to party like it’s 1999 … 1916!

1916…which is the year the Thermador company was established, which means this year 2016, we’re celebrating Thermador’s 100th Anniversary!

And since any celebration starts with food and drink, at least it does in our world, we’re putting together what we’re calling a “Party Board,” an epic setup of cheese, charcuterie, bread, crackers, fruit, nuts, crudité, dips, spreads, whatever, essentially any and all food party guests can easily eat from a big wooden board while holding onto their wine glasses.

EVERYBODY ON BUS THE PARTY BOARD!

From the overflowing looks of it, a Party Board might seem complicated, but it really only requires a well-planned market visit, some washing/prepping time, and a good eye to artfully arrange all the pieces together on a board. The beauty of the board is, of course, that 100% of it is prepared in advance of the party.

Did you read that? Everything, and we mean, everything, is done in advance, not just “mostly setup but when the guests arrive you still have to be in the kitchen throwing things together.” “In advance” means you, as the host, don’t have to do anything but have a great time with your guests. Well, that and maybe pour the wine — which we consider a great time, too.

classic beet sweet potato and edamame hummus

WHEN I DIP, YOU DIP, WE DIP

Our Party Boards generally lean heavily toward fresh fruit and vegetables with a colorful array of dips and spreads. We like everything from creamy dips (um hello Ranch!) to guacamole to soft cheese spreads to mostly-vegetable purées like Mediterranean baba ghanouj.

And speaking of Mediterranean, our number one go-to for a Party Board is hummus. No matter what other things appear on our Party Board for any given celebration, there will always be at least one type of hummus. Because it’s easy to start with a basic hummus and expand on it with other flavors from herbs, spices, and even vegetables, there will probably two types of hummus, maybe even three, and heck, for our friends at Thermador, we did four!

We start with an extra large batch (double recipe) of our now perfect Classic Hummus recipe. Even if your gathering is small, when is it ever a bad idea to have some extra hummus stored up in the fridge for a midnight snack or a light packed lunch to go?

Then we portion out some of the classic hummus to serve as the base for hot pink Roasted Beet Hummus and bright purple Roasted Sweet Potato Hummus. The recipe for Classic Hummus is {here}. Make it, then use it as a base for the other two Hummus recipes: Roasted Beet Hummus {here} and Sweet Potato Hummus {here}.

We also love Edamame Hummus, which is made entirely from edamame (instead of a mix with the garbanzo beans of classic hummus). It works especially well because the other primary ingredient in classic hummus, tahini, is sesame, a flavor that naturally works well with edamame. That recipe is coming soon!

Because hummus keeps well for a few days in a tightly covered container in the refrigerator, make it in advance (obviously). However, we also have zero qualms ever about buying hummus in a package at the grocery store because come on, how many times have we all done that (about 100)? But we think our recipe for Classic Hummus made at home is the best we’ve ever tasted.

crudite prep, market haul

IT’S MY PARTY AND I’LL BUY IF I WANT TO

It probably goes against every piece of advice you’ve ever heard about planning and preparing for a get-together of any size, but I am of the belief that it is 100% okay to go grocery shopping without a list.

Gasp.

I know. The Number One listiest list-maker of all time just recommended that we go to the market without a list?!

Ok, so of course you’re going to carry a list for everything else like “wine” and “cheese (3 – 5 kinds)” and “bread” and “wine.” What I mean is “without a detailed list of every specific fruit and vegetable you plan to buy,” because, especially if you shop for fruit and vegetables at farmers’ markets, you may not find some things, and more importantly, you will discover pretty, delicious little surprises on your farmers’ tables that weren’t on your list like baby purple artichokes, ninja radishes, and mulberries.

That all being said, there are a few basic fruits and vegetables that are available year-round, in most markets, so keep those listed, and just be flexible about what you put in your basket.

vegetable crudite prep
HOW TO PREP THE VEGETABLES

Prepping fruits and vegetables always start with the same thing: wash everything. I mean everything, even the vegetables that you will peel by pulling the skin off (avocado), and even the vegetables you might peel with a peeler (carrots) because you’re going to touch the dirty skin outside, peel it off, but then touch the inside.

It’s not just about pesticides and/or germs. You don’t know who touched what, what touched what, and even the vegetables that are organic, local, straight from the farm, straight from your very own backyard garden, have dirt, environmental dust, and droppings (so gross I know, sorry), which, organic or not, isn’t pleasant to feel in your mouth. Or maybe it is for yours, but not your guests.

Helpful note: We use an organic fruit and vegetable spray wash in our kitchen to help loosen dirt and some of the natural waxes on fruit and vegetables skins.

Next step, wash everything. Oh, did we already say that? So important, we say it twice!

There are many ways to prep and present vegetables for a crudité platter. The following list explains what we do in our kitchen to each of the vegetable types to get them ready for the serving plate or board. If you have prepping secrets or suggestions, please let us in on them by leaving a comment!

The vegetables are listed in alphabetical order. Refer to the photo above for visual guidance, where the vegetables are pictured also, in alphabetical order left-to-right.

ASPARAGUS (blanched): Bend each asparagus stalk closer to the bottom of the stalk until it breaks. The stalk will break at the point where the stem changes from tender, which is edible, to woody which is still edible, but unpleasantly fibrous. Put the asparagus stalks in a colander, then pour boiling water over them. They will turn bright green from contact with the hot water, and will ever so slightly “cook,” if at all. You can see the difference in color between duller raw asparagus and the brighter green blanched asparagus in the photo above. Rinse with cold water, drain, and dry off the stalks. Cut the stalks into 3-inch pieces. I make my cuts on a bias to match the angle of the asparagus tip. It is way too much detail, I know, but I have no other hobbies.

AVOCADO: When it comes to party boards, people usually think of avocado as a base for a dip like guacamole. You can do the usual, or you can serve whole wedges of avocado that people will think is awesome and brilliant and unexpected. Cut straight through the skin and cut the avocado the “long way” into halves first. Pull the halves apart, remove the pit (save it to grow into a tree!) and slice the halves, still with the skin attached, into quarters, then eighths. Leaving the skin and flesh intact keeps more of the avocado from oxidizing, and makes it easier for guests to pick up with their hands. Guests can peel the skin back like a banana.

BEETS (raw or roasted): Baby beets are tender enough to be eaten raw. Slice them super thinly on a mandoline, which is especially pretty for candy stripe beets. Larger beets can be roasted, peeled, then cut into quarters. If you are serving red beets, especially if they are roasted, make sure you have small forks for your guests. Red beets stain hands and anything those hands touch, like your furniture and linens!

BROCCOLI (blanched): If, out of last minute desperation, you’ve ever bought a pre-made crudité platter from the deli/catering counter or produce section of your grocery store, you’ve seen raw broccoli florets as crudité. That’s fine and all, but have you ever seen anyone actually eat raw broccoli in anything other than in a salad, but it has to be drenched, no drowning, in some sort of sauce? Right. So don’t serve the broccoli raw. Use the same technique as for the asparagus, pouring boiling hot water over the stalks through a colander. Though the broccoli will still be almost as crunchy as it is raw, it will be a very bright green and will look more edible. Cut the florets or stalk into 3-inch pieces.

CARROTS: You know how to make carrot sticks. In the Spring though, look for little baby carrots that you can serve whole. You don’t need to peel the baby carrots, just scrub them very well. You can use a scrubbing brush; we use a clean dishwashing scrubbing sponge that is set aside specifically for vegetables. Trim the green carrot tops down to about ¾-inch. Use a sharp paring knife to “scrape” some of the dark stuff from around the “neck” where the greens attach to the top of the actual carrot. I have no idea if this dirt, but it doesn’t look great, so do what you can to scrape it off. Serve the baby carrots whole if they’re thin enough, or slice them length-wise into halves or quarters.

CELERY: You probably already did this in order to thoroughly wash the celery, but if not, remove outer stalks that are bruised or too “tough.” Cut off about 2 inches of the root end (you can stick it in a small cup of water to grow into new celery!), then pull apart the stalks. Trim the leaves of any brown or wilted leaves and bits. Cut each stalk into thirds, about 3 inch pieces. We make bias cuts because that is how we have cut vegetables our whole lives. Serve the most tender inner stalks, and also the leafy tops, which present well on the board.

CUCUMBER: Cut the cucumber in half length-wise, then make ¼-inch slices along a deep bias to make spears. We do this because the longer spear shapes matches most of the other vegetables. It’s also fine to cut the whole cucumber into rounds.

ENDIVE: Pull apart the leaves, and trim the bottom of each leaf of the jagged edges.

GREEN BEANS (blanched): Trim the stem end off of each green bean, then prepare the same way as the asparagus and broccoli — by pouring boiling hot water over the green beans set in a colander.

RADICCHIO: Pull apart the leaves. Trim the jagged edges. Generally, the inner most leaves are the best for scooping or dipping.

RADISHES: We love every kind of radish ever, but for a Party Board, we like French Breakfast Radishes, the longer-shaped ones that are dark fuschia/red and white. Prep these kind of radishes the same way as baby carrots, scrubbing them well, leaving the green tops and leaves, and scraping away the dark spots around the “neck.” For regular round radishes, cut into small wedges, or thinly slice on a mandoline into rounds like the baby beets.

SUGAR SNAPS: Use kitchen shears to trim dark stem ends. And that’s it. Sugar snaps are basically ready to go.

TOMATOES: Even easier than sugar snaps, just wash and go. Like Pert.

WATERMELON RADISH: Trim the green top and the root end off the radish. To make it easier, cut the radish in half the “long way,” then slice each half into half moons using a mandoline. Use a very sharp knife to carefully “peel” the thinnest, outermost skin of each slice. It may seem time-consuming to peel by hand for each individual slice, but it’s easier and makes for a “smoother” edge than trying to use a peeler on a whole, round radish.

ZUCCHINI: Use baby zucchini, and if they still have the blossoms attached, even better! If the squash are thin and tender enough, you can serve them whole, otherwise, slice them the long way into halves or quarters.

OTHER VEGETABLES TO CONSIDER

What you serve will always depend on seasonal and local availability.

Cauliflower and Other Cousins of Broccoli: “Blanch” the same was as we do for asparagus and green beans, but pouring boiling hot water over the florets set in a colander.

Fennel: raw, sliced

Parsnips

Peppers: Cut large bell pepperslength-wise into ½-inch wide strips, or serve small sweet baby bell peppers whole or sliced in half length-wise.

Sweet Potato: Roasted sweet potatoes cut into wedges or chunks are good in the cooler months when tender, fresh baby vegetables aren’t as readily available, but we didn’t do it this time because we have sweet potato in one of our hummus.

Oh, you have some omnivore friends, too? Stay tuned. Next week, we’re putting together an outstanding charcuterie board and have a recipe for Bourbon Bacon Jam to share with you!

by Sarah J. Gim on April 27, 2016 · 3 comments

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Denise Wright April 29, 2016 at 3:53 am

This is gorgeous! I can’t wait to use all of this for my next party.

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April May 2, 2016 at 10:20 pm

Thank you for this! This is so helpful. Will you be doing the fruit part later as well? This one was titled vegetables and fruit, but you only gave instructions for the veggies.

Also, you forgot to add in the links for the Roasted Beet Hummus and the Sweet Potato Hummus. Looking forward to those, as well as the Edamame Hummus you mentioned!

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Jean | DelightfulRepast.com August 28, 2016 at 8:27 am

Sarah, this reminds me of my dear mother who made amazing spreads like this that simply knocked everyone’s socks off! Love how you emphasize the washing of everything — I’m a germaphobe, so saying it twice made me happy. And I like the idea of leaving the skin on the avocado.

PS Is Tastespotting still active?

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