Easy Entertaining: A Garden Fresh Edible Centerpiece

June 17, 2013

Replace your typical floral arrangement with a beautiful edible centerpiece featuring fresh vegetables and flowering herbs. With inspiration from the farmer's market or your own garden, you'll have all the ingredients needed to create this simple elegant wine country-style spread. In this short video, Nitsa Knoll, Jordan Winery Director of Hospitality and Events, will walk you through how to create this vibrant edible centerpiece and four quick and easy dips like her delicious Greek Goddess Dip recipe.

Video transcription provided below.

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Now that summer’s finally here this is a great way to bring the garden to the table and replace your typical floral arrangements with a beautiful centerpiece. I like to call this the edible centerpiece.  One of the great things about this is it’s something that you can do in advance, you can do it the day before as long as you start correctly and you get to spend more time with your guests because everything is prepared. The edible centerpiece works great as a first course. While you have things cooking on the grill your guests can be enjoying real bites.  I’m going to walk you through on how you can design this edible centerpiece. The first thing that you want to do is have bento boxes, they’re my favorite thing to use because there are separate compartments. Japanese use these for their meals and they eat by layers and so you can always do another layer underneath which is great. If you don’t have bento boxes, smaller dishes throughout the table also work fantastic. So there are few things that I think I’d want to go to, either the grocery store, the farmers market or go down to my garden here at Jordan Winery. A couple of things, I always think about color, texture and flavor. So what I have here, I have three different types of cauliflower. I have radicchio, so I’ve got lots of vibrant color here, cherry tomatoes from my garden, some small baby carrots, zucchini, endive, lots of different vegetables.

So what you really want to think about is texture and color so when you place it on the table, I made sure to keep my broccolini away from my cauliflower because they have the same texture and I really want it to be vibrant and I want them to stand out on their own. And one of the things I always think about is the size of it, you want to make sure that it could fit in your mouth in one bite or two bites because more than that you’ll definitely have double dippers. We cut the radicchio, and one of the great things is you want to make sure, even if people don’t eat the core it’s great to keep it there because then that way you’ve got a small bite size piece that you can hold on to. And with the carrots over here you can … a lot of people, you’ll see them take off the tops but it’s fine, absolutely fine to bring them, you know, and leave them on there. And when you peel them you can peel it a little bit just to clean up the top of it and it just really makes you feel a little bit more like you have the fresh ingredient coming from your garden and it’s not just a store product.  So a great thing to do is get food saver, you can find it with the spices in your grocery store and put a little food saver in some water and then after you cut it dip it in there and right before your guests arrive is when you’ll want to put it on the table.

Another tip for prepping your vegetables, either cauliflower or broccoli, instead of just cutting right into it we have straight lines, you want it to look more natural where you have a beautiful little floret, the best way to do it is you want to clean everything from underneath so you’re going to clean, you know, cut away all of your leaves that you might have and then you just take your knife and you go in here, make sure, be careful with your hand down here, but you want to go and just … you just break off little pieces so then you have a really natural little floret without straight lines.  So right before your guests arrive, there’s a little secret, this is a great way to go.  So you’re going to take extra virgin olive oil, you go ahead and you just brush it on all of your vegetables, after you brush it on your vegetables you can get a little spray bottle with water and just freshen everything up and it will look like it was just picked from your garden.  If you’re looking to save time this is all stuff that can be done in advance. You can do everything the day before.  So you can just go ahead and prep all of your vegetables as you normally would, you can put them in the bento boxes and just wrap them with damp paper towels, so you can wet the towels, squeeze it out and drape them over and that would be just a great way to hold them, the next day they still look great.

To complement all of your veggies I have created a couple of dips here. So you can use extra virgin olive oil, people just love to have a clean vegetable with a great dip. You can also … sour cream goes a long way. You could take your basic sour cream, doctor it up with different things.  Go to your dry pantry, get different rubs you might have, squeeze a little lemon in there, salt and pepper and you’ve got a great dip.  Another thing you could do is hummus, hummus is really easy to make and it’s fantastic with vegetables. I love doing a Greek goddess so I am not a fan of mayonnaise and that is what’s typically in a green goddess so what I did was I took a little … I did a little spinoff of that and being Greek I decided to add a little bit of my heritage in there. So I like to do plain yogurt and I make a pesto with mint and dill and very fresh ingredients and then mix it into the plain yogurt and it’s just wonderful.

Since your grill is already going another thing that you could do is take your bell peppers, throw them on the grill, roast them a little bit, get them soft, chop them up or puree them very quickly, mix it in with some sour cream and you’ve got another great dip.

In addition to serving Jordan Chardonnay or J sparkling, I love to infuse my waters. So one of the waters that I have here is just raspberry, it just makes it a lot more appetizing for your guests and you want them to stay hydrated since the sun is finally here.  So one of the things that you could do is take your berries and put them in the freezer and they also act as ice cubes, which is great. You can put them in the little ice trays and pour a little water over them, freeze them that way or you can put them on a little cookie sheet with a towel down, sprinkle them out and they freeze and they’re just, they’re great and they’re great to snack on too.

So you can’t completely forget about flowers on the table so one thing that we have here is we have flowering herbs from our garden, it just ties right in with the whole thing and it gives a little pop of color here and there. But containers for herbs, I really love to use these little glasses, at my house we use these as wine glasses quite often, so you can get a small little glass, it doesn’t actually have to be a vase, and just plop them right in there and it just … it looks beautiful.  And we have all of them there, just all a little bit different from each other and it looks … it’s fun.  When you’re entertaining you have a tendency to overthink things, so this is a way, you could just keep it simple and as long as it’s simple and vibrant and beautiful and elegant you’re on your way to a great party.

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