HOW DOES the CT “garden” grow? With ideas from readers all in a row! This savory centerpiece is a fine example. From two different parts of the country, subscribers, Wanda and Eleanor planted the seeds for the flowery design when they individually offered their kitchen best. Wanda got things going by sharing how she shapes yellow summer squash into fresh flower garnishes. That notion impressed our home economists so much that they started sprouting all sorts of buds carved from other veggies, then poked skewers into the cut-up creations, covered the skewers with green onion tops and arranged a tasty bouquet fit for a friendly buffet. Eleanor lent a helping hand by contributing a delectable dip to round off the edible centerpiece. (We spooned her mixture into little clay pots lined with paper cups for individual servings for dipping the veggie flowers.) Go ahead and arrange a bunch of flowers and dip for your next happy gathering…and be prepared to reap smiles aplenty!
- VEGETABLE DIP::
- 2 packages (8 ounces each) cream cheese, softened
- 2/3 cup mayonnaise
- 1/3 cup sour cream
- 4 green onions with tops, chopped
- 1 teaspoon dill weed
- 1 teaspoon dried parsley flakes
- 1 teaspoon seasoned salt
- 1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
- 1 to 2 drops hot pepper sauce
- PREPARING CLAY POTS: Cut one 14-inch square of aluminum foil. Turn large clay pot upside down and press foil over the bottom as
- smoothly as possible. Remove shaped foil.
- Turn pot right side up and firmly press foil into pot and against all sides. Trim excess foil around rim.Crumple a large piece of foil into a ball to fit inside pot to hold skewers upright, or fill pot with florist foam if desired. Hide foil ball or florist foam with alfalfa sprouts.
- Follow procedure for shaping foil for small pots, using eight 6-inch squares of foil. Or line pots with small beverage cups (the rims of the cups may need to be trimmed to fit inside pots).
- Make desired amount of vegetable flowers
- to fill large pot according to directions that follow (see note).
- SQUASH FLOWER: Place the larger round
- end of the squash on a cutting board. Using a sharp knife, make three to four downward angular cuts about 1-1/2 inches above the larger end of the squash toward the center (see Fig. 1a). Gently twist end to separate. Make a small hole in the flower center with the knife to insert the green onion flower. Repeat
- with stem end.
- To make flower center, trim the root a green onion. Using a small scissors or sharp knife, cut lengthwise slits, 1/8 to 1/4 inch apart and 1 inch long, on the root end (Fig. 1b). Place in a bowl of ice water to curl. Insert into the hole in the center of the squash. Insert a skewer into the green part of the onion to make
- stem. Cut up any remaining squash to serve with dip.
- CUCUMBER FLOWER: Peel and cut cucumber into 1/2-inch-thick slices. Using a 2-inch scalloped cookie cutter, cut slices into “flowers”. Using an apple corer or knife, cut a hole in center of a cucumber “flower”. Peel and cut carrot into 1/2-inch-thick slices and place in the hole in cucumber “flower”. Insert a skewer through a petal to center of each flower. Serve any extra cucumber and carrot slices with dip.
- RADISH FLOWER: Using the tip of a sharp knife, make pointed petals using 10 to 12 angled downward cuts around the outer red skin, keeping radish joined at the base (see Fig. 2 above right).
- Using the knife tip, carefully loosen the petals from the white center inside. Place in a bowl of ice water until the petals open. Insert skewer into the bottom of the radish.
- MUSHROOM FLOWER: Using the tip of a small sharp knife and starting from the top center, score downward in a spiral pattern to the edge of the cap, removing a small amount of mushroom with each cut (Fig. 3).
- Continue around the mushroom cap in a spiral pattern. Sprinkle mushroom with lemon juice to prevent browning. Insert skewer into
- bottom of mushroom.
- PEARL ONION FLOWER: You may use white or red onions or some of both. (If red pearl onions are not available, you can tint white ones after cutting them as directed below. To do so, add 3 drops of red and blue food coloring to ice water and let cut onion soak until desired hue is obtained.)
- Peel outer skin, leaving root end intact.Using a small sharp knife, make cuts halfway down toward the root end all around the onion. Place onion in hot water for 5 minutes, then place in ice water to make it “bloom”. Insert skewer through bottom of each onion flower.
- TOMATO ROSE: Using a sharp knife, start at the smooth end and slowly remove the skin of a cherry tomato in one long continuous strip, about 1/2 inch wide.With the fleshy part inside, start to curl skin from the base end, forming into a rose.
- FINISHING: Cover skewers with green onion tops and arrange in the large clay pot. Place squash flowers and tomato roses on individual
- plates. Fill lined small clay pots with 3-4 tablespoons of Vegetable Dip (recipe below).
- Garnish dip-filled pots with dill sprigs if desired.
- Vegetable Dip: In a bowl, combine cream cheese, mayonnaise and sour cream; mix well. Add remaining ingredients. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve. Yield: 3 cups.
Originally published as Vegetable Dip in Country Woman July/August 1997, p15
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