“When I’m throwing a party, I almost exclusively make appetizer boards,” explains Los Angeles–based chef, caterer, and party planner Annie Campbell. “Anything else is too much last-minute hands-on work while guests are around—and the board becomes part of the decor.” Campbell starts by picking out produce in season from the farmers’ market or local grocer, usually discovering things like “a vegetable I never knew came in bright pink,” she says. Next, she suggests building your board around a particular color, flavor, or shape and experimenting with different ways of presenting your ingredients—like cutting a bell pepper into hollow circles rather than the usual spears or assembling a monochrome platter. Whip up a dip and you’re set. The best part? No stovetop required. So gather your tools—a large cutting board, vegetable peeler, trusty chef’s knife, and mandoline (for superthin, large, even slices)—and get chopping.
Layer on as many colors as you like for this seasonal, SoCal-inspired spread—from watermelon radishes to rainbow carrots. The key is playing with form; use a mandoline to turn radishes into wafer-thin discs and go for a slim paring knife when carefully slicing open sugar snap pea pods to display the dainty pearls inside. Whichever way you cut it, the vegetables are the star: “They should taste really good raw,” says chef Annie Campbell. “Try a carrot at the market before you commit to it!” Green goddess dressing is, of course, the natural pairing.
This antipasti-style plate keeps things fresh with crisp raw fennel and heirloom cherry tomatoes, along with the more traditional marinated cauliflower, pickled artichoke hearts, and Castelvetrano olives. “Abundance complements a spread,” Campbell says, so don’t worry if your board floweth over. Elevate one or two items in a cup or a bowl to add height. For a rustic, free-form look, rough-chop the vegetables and leave the tops on produce, like the celery shown here.
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Rosemary White Bean Dip
Makes 2 cups
1/3 cup olive oil
4 sprigs rosemary
2 15-oz cans white cannellini beans, well drained
3 garlic cloves, sliced or diced
2 tsp lemon juice
Pinch of red pepper flakes, sea salt, and black pepper, to taste
To make the rosemary olive oil, heat oil and rosemary sprigs in a small saucepan over medium heat for 3 minutes or until fragrant. Add the garlic, then turn off the heat and let cool. Once cool, remove rosemary sprigs and garlic, reserving the garlic.
Then combine the reserved garlic; drained cannellini beans; lemon juice; and a pinch of salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes in a blender or food processor. Puree, and slowly pour in the infused olive oil, blending until smooth. Taste and adjust seasoning as needed. Serve in a small bowl.
Pastel & Pickled
Pickling radishes and shallots brings out their natural pretty pink tones—and some acidity for balance—creating a soft palette with subtle flavors to match. Building on the color scheme of this Scandi-themed board, arrange endive, white asparagus, and halved hard-boiled eggs alongside beets and fine-cut Pink Lady apples. Scatter capers and snip a bunch of fresh dill on top right before serving.
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Crème Fraîche Beet Dip
Makes 2 cups
2 12-oz jars pickled beets, well drained or 5 roasted beets
1 cup crème fraîche
1 tbsp prepared horseradish
1 tbsp dill, chopped
1 tsp lemon juice
1 tsp sea salt
Combine beets, crème fraîche, horseradish, dill, lemon juice, and salt in a blender or food processor and puree until smooth. Add salt to taste and adjust seasoning as needed.
Clean & Graphic
For this Japanese-inspired board, Campbell sliced a dark-skinned radish on a mandoline and chopped up other vegetables from her local Asian market: daikon, cucumber, scallion, lettuce, and nori. No matter your ingredients, re-create the look by stacking items in little piles, playing with textures, colors, and shapes for a checkerboard effect. Sprinkle black sesame seeds over your tableau and finish with a ginger ponzu dipping sauce for a sweet-spicy note.
Wooden Cutting Board by Hoshino Kogyo $36 tokyocentral.com; Cedarwood Sake Masu Cup $10 mrslinskitchen.com.
The raw ingredients of this Mexican board keep things hot thanks to a trio of slim-cut bell, padron, and poblano peppers. Balance the spice and complement the color scheme with cucumber spears, sweet yellow cherry tomatoes, and satisfyingly crunchy jicama. Serve with generous amounts of lime and cilantro—as well as Campbell’s favorite: serrano chili margaritas.
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Avocado Crema Dip
Makes 2 cups
3 ripe avocados, halved, pitted, and removed from the skin
1 garlic clove
1 cup Mexican crema
2½ tbsp lime juice
3 tbsp fresh cilantro
½ tsp cumin
½ tsp hot sauce
Sea salt and ground pepper, to taste
Combine the avocado flesh, garlic, Mexican crema, lime juice, cilantro, cumin, and hot sauce in a blender or food processor and puree until smooth. Add salt and pepper to taste and adjust seasoning as needed.