Ditch the scrambled bread out of the fancy box with these 3 recipes for a hot and fluffy dip

I have this theory that crudités – now very popular and on many restaurant menus – have never wanted to be as luxurious as the word seems. Sure, the talented chef serves up splendid asparagus spears (maybe white spears?) or radishes with flawless, pure greens strung on antique ceramics. But for this column and in fact, if you only have friends, a plate of beautiful sweet peppers or wedges of ripe tomatoes with a simple and delicious sauce is actually a very modest thing to serve. He might say, “I like you, I like vegetables and I think you’ll like these, too.”

I don’t box baked goods—they can be fancy or not—but it’s hard to deny they’re the perfect summer appetizer—and the markets are full of vegetables you’ll want to eat raw. However, crudités are a solid year-round appetizer to keep in your back pocket.

There are some criteria. First, the crudités should contain nice-looking, but not necessarily “perfect” vegetables, because frankly, ugly vegetables can taste better sometimes.

It’s also a good idea to have one or two non-veg in the mix to round things out (this might sound like I’m going down right away). For sweet peppers and lavash with chili sauce, cashews and carrots, I lightly and quickly blister the paprika to add char flavor while keeping them crisp. In the same recipe, I call roasted lavash: All you have to do is throw a few large pieces on a plate, drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with salt, and roast in the oven, and you’ll have the best biscuits. The spicy cashew and carrot dip has a texture similar to chickpeas, but is softer, spicier, and sweeter.

Add mayonnaise to preserved lemon for a plate of cucumbers and tomatoes.

Courtesy of Christian Renoso

And that calls for another criterion: Most vegetables should be crunchy, but not necessarily all. This way you can really taste the vegetables as they are, fresh and bright – a very good way to start a meal. I think a mix of crisp leafy greens can be just as fun as my summer dishes of tomatoes, cucumbers, and basil with preserved lemon mayonnaise. Cucumber adds crunch. Tomatoes are firm and still dipable. Basil is not an garnish here: it should also be dipped with a tomato wedge.

Of course, there has to be a dip – otherwise it’s just a “raw” dish, as I say. Moreover, the dipping should be accompanied by the vegetables of your choice. If you serve multiple sauces, try to make each one special. It can be as simple as preserved lemon mayonnaise, which I invite tinkering with store-bought mayonnaise.

For green beans, gems and radish wedges with apricot labneh and roasted garlic, the yogurt-based sauce is still simple but takes a little longer to prepare with roasting, swirling, refrigerating, etc. Every passing minute deserves a little sweet caramelized garlic and delicious apricot with a hint of turmeric. I top this with crunchy golden garlic and pine olive oil. It is such a pleasure to have a crunchy piece of garlic between those crisp leaves.

Roasted apricots and garlic takes the labneh to the next level as a dip for green beans and Little Jim's lettuce.

Roasted apricots and garlic takes the labneh to the next level as a dip for green beans and Little Jim’s lettuce.

Courtesy of Christian Renoso

Finally, there is no need to eat more than two (maybe three) types of vegetables for a dip. It’s really as simple as “less is more” — and do people really need crunchy, raw cauliflower florets? hikama? Belgian dandelion (which makes me say “ahndeev” out loud every time I see one)?

Whatever you make of your bread, have fun when it comes to designing your plate. The questions I tend to ask myself are: Can these leaves or stems stay? Would this paper look sexy if it was more wavy/tight? Does the dish look “assembled” or did I just put these vegetables in here? Are there a lot of green veggies on this plate or is this monochromatic look really cool? There aren’t many right or wrong answers here, but spend a few extra minutes enjoying the process. It’s hard not to enjoy arranging a beautiful dish from the season’s best reward.

Christian Renoso is a chef, recipe developer and writer. Originally from Sonoma, lives in San Francisco. Email: [email protected] Instagram: Tweet embed Twitter: Tweet embed

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