A classic vegetable platter gets a winter makeover with seasonal produce and two creamy, vegan dipping sauces.
I bet you’d never imagine the words “best ever” in front of the words “vegetable platter,” but today I’m here to rock your world and prove to you that this is an incredibly appropriate statement. That’s right, I’m going to show you not only a vibrant array of winter vegetables (that don’t need to be cooked before enjoying) but TWO life-changing dipping sauces that are not only incredibly tasty, but VEGAN to boot. Hummus and queso, step aside. My Garlicky Cauliflower Almond Butter Dip and Thai Peanut Dipping Sauce are going to change your life.
But, before I get to these super-duper recipes, let’s talk a bit about a very important food event that’s coming up this weekend. Yes, I just referred to the Super Bowl as a food event as opposed to a sporting event, because when there isn’t really a specific team you’re rooting for, your focus turns directly to the snacks (and drinks!) that are being served. Am I right? It’s basically an excuse to make all of the delicious things (usually not so healthy) that you’ve been dreaming about since last year’s Super Bowl.
The good news is, this Best EVER Winter Vegetable Platter is both healthy AND delicious, and will satisfy all of your guests, no matter their dietary restrictions or preferences. This dish is both vegan and gluten-free, but even those who don’t follow either of these diets will find it a welcome healthy munch among all of the other not-so-healthy foods you might be serving (and have no fear, I have a not-so-healthy Super Bowl-friendly recipe coming to you on Wednesday – because we’re all about that balance, baby!)
So let’s talk about how I came up with the ideas for the Garlicky Cauliflower Almond Butter Dip and Thai Peanut Dipping Sauce that grace this Best EVER Winter Vegetable Platter. You might recall that back in November I took a little trip to Wine Country with my gal Hana-Lee from Wander & Wine. During that trip, we were lucky enough to grab dinner at Press Restaurant in St. Helena.
While we were waiting for the first of our many dishes to arrive at the table, we were surprised with a large galvanized metal tray, with little veggie tops popping out of a bed of crushed ice. (We later found out that these cute little veggies came straight from the farm that Press has partnered with to provide all of its produce…Amazing!) Surrounding the tray were five little bowls of dipping sauces, and we were told to try our hand at all of the different vegetable and dip combinations. It was basically a vegetarian version of shrimp cocktail, genius!
Among all of the combinations I tried, one really stood out to me: fresh fennel bulb dipped into Press’ version of Thai peanut sauce. It was so dang good it was all I could think of even as we ate all of the other delicious dishes we ordered. I have to admit, the fennel and Thai peanut is a flavor combination I would have NEVER thought of, but it was amazing. I immediately added it to my list of flavor combos to try on my own at home.
I’m not quite so sure how I came up with the idea for my Garlicky Cauliflower Almond Butter Sauce, but I’ve been wanting to try my hand at making a Creamy Cauliflower Sauce a la Pinch of Yum for quite some time. I guess I figured almond butter would be a natural, delicious addition, along with some other spices and of course loads of garlic.
Once I had my sauces down, I knew I had to get some hearty, beautiful vegetables to stand up to their deliciousness. Fennel was a shoe-in, and after perusing the seasonal produce section at Trader Joe’s I decided on some beautiful rainbow carrots, crunchy radishes and slightly bitter Belgian endive to round out the tray. Not only were all of these vegetables just perfect with BOTH of the sauces, they also make a beautiful display that whoever you’re entertaining will not be able to keep their hands off of.
The great thing about this Best EVER Vegetable Platter is you can prep both of the sauces well in advance (up to three days.) The Garlicky Cauliflower Almond Butter Sauce makes a HUGE batch, so you’ll likely have a bunch leftover, but I highly recommend you take advantage of this by using it as a dairy-free creamy pasta sauce. Once you have the dipping sauces made, all that’s left if to find the freshest winter produce you can and use your food styling skills to really make your platter pop.
Whether you whip this up for Super Bowl or not, it’s the perfect recipe to have in your arsenal for any time you’re entertaining a crowd with health concerns or varied dietary preferences. Make it now, make it later, doesn’t matter as long as you give it a shot as soon as you can!
Best EVER Winter Vegetable Platter
For the Garlicky Cauliflower Almond Butter Dip:
- 1 tablespoon plus 1/4 teaspoon salt, divided
- 7 cups cauliflower florets (about 1 medium head of cauliflower)
- 4 large cloves garlic, peeled
- 1/2 cup unsweetened vanilla almond milk
- 1/4 cup almond butter
- 2 teaspoons white balsamic vinegar
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 1/8 teaspoon pepper
- Dash of cayenne
For the Thai Peanut Dipping Sauce:
- 2/3 cup creamy peanut butter
- 1/4 cup rice vinegar
- 1 tablespoon honey (or agave nectar)
- 1/2 cup hot water
- 2 teaspoons sambal oelek
For the platter:
- 6-8 rainbow carrots, peeled and cut into sticks
- 6-8 radishes, tops removed and cut into halves or quarters
- 2 bunches Belgian endive (bonus if you can find one purple and one green bunch)
- 1 large fennel bulb, cut into sticks
To make the Garlicky Cauliflower Almond Butter Dip:
- Bring a large pot of water with 1 tablespoon salt to a boil. Once water is boiling, add cauliflower and garlic cloves and cook until cauliflower is fork tender, about 6 minutes.
- Using a slotted spoon or small sieve, scoop out the cauliflower florets and garlic cloves and place in a blender. Reserve cooking water.
- Add almond butter, almond milk, white balsamic, cinnamon, nutmeg, cayenne and salt and pepper to blender. Turn blender on low and slowly add ¾ - 1 cup of the reserved cooking water, until the mixture has reached a creamy consistency. Transfer to a resealable container and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes before serving, or up to three days.
To make the Thai Peanut Dipping Sauce:
- In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together the peanut butter, rice vinegar, honey, hot water and sambal oelek. Transfer to a resealable container and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes before serving, or up to three days.
To assemble the platter:
- Place dipping sauces in two small bowls and place in center of platter. Surround with all of the vegetables and serve immediately.