Van Gogh Veggie Platter
Serving size 20 or more. Recipe is from Augusta, Ga., caterer and former Baton Rouge resident Jane Hall Harmon, who says she chose the platter’s name because “putting it together is like creating a painting.”
3 whole artichokes
1/2 lb. fresh snow pea pods
1/2 lb. fresh asparagus
Light vinegar, such as rice wine or white balsamic
1 jar pickled okra
1 jar pickled baby corn
About a dozen Peloponnese and green olives
1 jar hearts of palm
6 fresh radishes
About 20 Greek dolmas (grape leaves filled with rice and herbs), cut in half
1 dozen marinated mushrooms
3 prepared dips (sun-dried tomato, spinach, and spring vegetable)
Fresh curly leaf parsley
1 jar of very small red caviar, such as the smallest jar of the Romanoff brand
1. On Day 1: Trim points and tops of artichokes and steam 45 minutes. Remove from water, drain, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate.
2. Drop snow pea pods into boiling water. The second the water returns to a boil pour pods into a strainer, then place into an ice bath. Dry and line up on a bath towel and roll up without creasing the pods. Refrigerate rolled up in towel.
3. Trim and steam asparagus 4 or 5 minutes depending on the size. Rinse under cold water, dry and place in a plastic container. Drizzle with a little light vinegar of your choosing. Refrigerate.
4. On Day 2: Open seams of pea pods with a very sharp paring knife and remove peas. Snip any tough ends. Pipe with softened cream cheese. Place in one layer on a sheet pan, cover lightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate.
5. Drain the pickled okra and baby corn and pat dry.
6. Wash and cut carrots, celery and broccoli to use with dips. Drain the hearts of palm; dry and slice into 1-inch circles
7. Slice off the tops and sliver the sides of the radishes to make a flower. Place in a cup of crushed ice and water, then refrigerate. They will open up and look like a flower.
8. Cut the dolmas in half. These may be found in specialty grocery stores. I like to wipe the oil off and squeeze a little fresh lemon juice on them.
9. To make the painting: Cover a 30- to 34-inch silver tray with 2 layers of doilies and tape them down. Place 3 glass baking custard cups at the top of the tray to hold the artichokes. Remove center of artichokes down to the heart, removing all fuzzy matter and a few inner leaves. Spread leaves slightly, fill with the three dips and place in the custard cups. Surround custard cups and 1/2 way up the sides of the artichokes with broccoli florets. Next, stack the dolmas like a wall. This will give some sturdiness and height to prop okra, asparagus spears and corn. Then go back and add some broccoli covering any open areas.
10. At this point you will begin to place vegetables in the order and places as seen in the photograph or any way that you like. The pea pods should be added last. They are quite delicate and shouldn’t have the weight of other veggies on them and their tips are very pretty at the bottom edge of the (painting) tray. You will know just where to tuck olives and mushrooms to fill in spots. This is truly like creating a painting. Use your own imagination when placing these vegetables.
11. To garnish: Place clusters of fresh curly leaf parsley around the top of the tray particularly around the backs of the custard cups and in-between the artichokes. This is important if the tray will be seen from the back of your party buffet table. Dry each radish and stick 1/2 of a wooden toothpick in the bottom. Find a central point and place these radishes as a bouquet. If you happen to have a green onion or two, they may be tied in a bow or European knot to place at the radish bouquet.
12. Drain about a tablespoon of caviar at a time in a fine strainer and blot on paper towels. Using the tip of a paring knife or whatever is most comfortable in your hand, place a few dots in each cream cheese-filled pea pod.
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