Veggie tray question

ruthanna_gwFebruary 1, 2013

One of our neighbors invited us to his Super Bowl party, which is usually a mix of his friends, co-workers and neighbors. When I asked him if I could bring anything, he replied, "It would be great if you could bring a vegetable platter with dip."

Easy, right? I have a big sectioned tray with six sections surrounding a center one so got the equipment. The problem is that I usually don't pay attention to the vegetable trays when I'm at a party or event and have never prepared one.

What six vegetables and dip would you use? I think I should include carrot and celery sticks but am stuck on the other four. It will be a mostly male, meat-and-potatoes group.

I'd appreciate any suggestions.

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You can really use any veg you like. Just be sure they're in bite-sized portions. Longer pieces (like carrot sticks/celery sticks) encourage double dipping--you want each piece no longer than 1".

Broccoli florets, cauliflower florets, red or yellow bell pepper, scallians, grape tomatoes.

Be sure to put a spoon in the dip, and supply small cups (you can buy them at the local bar or restaurant supply house) so people can put the dip in them. Especially this winter, with the prevalence of serious flu and stomach virus strains, you want to be sure no one double dips. Another suggestion--make a big container of dip, but put only a small bowl out at a time, so you can wash the bowl between refillings to make sure you're not starting any kind of epidemic among your friends--LOL!

Just go to the market and pick veg that are good raw, that are really colorful. You can even include a section of cubed rye or pumpernickel bread if you're using a dip that goes with that (spinach, for example).

    Bookmark   February 1, 2013 at 9:24AM
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I like green beans (fresh), broccoli and cauliflower only if they have been blanched. Raw broccoli or cauliflower is gross texture-wise IMO.

Also small radishes are good

    Bookmark   February 1, 2013 at 9:37AM
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In addition to the above I sometimes add green and black olives, radishes, marinaded mushrooms or artichoke hearts, pickled banana peppers and sometimes cubes of various cheeses.


    Bookmark   February 1, 2013 at 9:43AM
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This onion dip from Alton Brown is always a huge hit whenever I serve it. I usually serve it with chips but it is also great with veggies. I usually caramelize the onions for longer than 20 minutes. It is MUCH better if made the night before so the flavors can mingle and get to know each other a little better.

Onion Dip from Scratch
Recipe courtesy Alton Brown

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 1/2 cups diced onions
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 1/2 cups sour cream
3/4 cup mayonnaise
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon ground white pepper
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

In a saute pan over medium heat add oil, heat and add onions and salt. Cook the onions until they are caramelized, about 20 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside to cool. Mix the rest of the ingredients, and then add the cooled onions. Refrigerate and stir again before serving.

    Bookmark   February 1, 2013 at 9:49AM
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Cucumbers cut on the bias make a larger piece for dipping. I like a dill dip myself or the recipe I have (at home) for a curry dip, if you need a recipe.


    Bookmark   February 1, 2013 at 9:56AM
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Jicama is always good on a veggie tray. I am always surprised by the number of people that have never tried it.

    Bookmark   February 1, 2013 at 10:01AM
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You can also use cucumbers and zucchini, stay away from green peppers, they can be bitter.

The hard stuff - like carrots, broccoli, cauliflower, tend to be the last eaten.

I enjoy those condiments, too, like olives, pickles, artichoke hearts, etc.


    Bookmark   February 1, 2013 at 10:26AM
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I like it to be colorful - I use carrots, celery, cucumber, red & yellow pepper. I often make a spinach dip, but that onion dip above sounds very good!

    Bookmark   February 1, 2013 at 10:43AM
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I recommend little 'mini' sweet peppers.
They come in a bag, red, yellow & orange, mixed.
Almost like eating candy,
They are so sweet!
And good.
We've gone through several 1 lb. bags of them
in the last few months,
Not a bitter one yet.

Delicious with spinach dip.
And lots of color for your veggie tray.


    Bookmark   February 1, 2013 at 12:37PM
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For a Super Bowl party, I'd go more along the lines of an antipasto platter than the carrot/celery/zucchini sticks with dip thing.


    Bookmark   February 1, 2013 at 1:05PM
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Everyone loves jicama when they get a chance to try it. Green onions, strips of red or green peppers for color. I'd take a separate bowl of olives, they'll get eaten. Veggies cut in 'sticks' are best for the dip, put the olives and cherry tomatoes in separate bowls with spoons for serving.

    Bookmark   February 1, 2013 at 1:48PM
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In addition to the above mentioned, I know people seem to like the baby gherkins and that baby corn. I like to add the purple carrots, if I can find them. I'm not big on snap peas and green beans...but they seem to get eaten. I tend to focus on color and making sure there are radishes (MY favorite!!)! I've seen asparagus, too.

    Bookmark   February 1, 2013 at 2:14PM
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I make a version of Ranch dressing that uses only fresh ingredients, and it is the most popular dip for vegetables that I make:

Garlic/Dill dip

3-4 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp Kosher salt
2 tbs fresh lemon juice
1/2 tsp white pepper (optional)
1/2 tbsp freshly ground black pepper (or more, to taste)
1/3 cup fresh dill, minced (large stems removed)
1 dash cayenne
1 cups mayonnaise (Hellman's or Best Foods)
1 cup sour cream

Coarsely chop garlic and then put it in a mortar with the Kosher salt (Use less salt if not Kosher). Mash the garlic into a paste, adding more salt if needed to make the paste. Add the lemon juice and stir to combine. Remove mixture to a medium bowl, and add the rest of the ingredients and stir. Cover and chill for at least one hour before serving.

This dip is also good with potato chips. For vegetables, in addition to the celery and carrots, I serve raw mushrooms (cut into quarters, depending on size), broccoli florets, zucchini chips, cherry tomatoes, and pumpernickel pretzel sticks. Sometimes I include radishes, but they are a bit intense.


    Bookmark   February 1, 2013 at 2:18PM
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Thanks, everyone. I'll hit the farmers' market tomorrow and see what looks good. Rusty, I saw those colorful little peppers last week. I will also stop at the pickle vendor because their garlic dills should go with the rest of the menu. Alexa, I'll be sure to blanch any vegetables like broccoli.

    Bookmark   February 1, 2013 at 3:33PM
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No, you don't want to blanch broccoli or cauliflower--for dips they're served raw. Blanching would take away the crispness and fresh flavor. Don't make more work for yourself.

    Bookmark   February 1, 2013 at 3:39PM
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Ruthanna - You have some good ideas from the previous posters. If I was bringing a veggie platter for mostly man I would include 2 dips one like the ranch that Lars posted and one spicy like the saba spicy hummus, a lot of men like that.
On the vegetable choices I would have carrots, celery, snap peas,pepperoncini, cucumbers, and the last one either a radish or asparagus. I would pick at the store based on freshness and ease of dipping.


    Bookmark   February 1, 2013 at 4:10PM
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I like my broccoli and cauliflower lightly blanched as well. I disagree about peppers, I don't think they're bitter.

Depending on what you can get in season or reasonably fresh and priced right you can use anything you like. I like blanched asparagus, I love artichokes, Ithink pickles and olives are a separate thing and are best served along side.

This has become one of my favorites and the Aioli is amazing!

Crudite Platter with Roasted Garlic Aioli
From Cottage Living 2/07

1 bunch baby carrots (leave about 1 inch of green tops on
1/2 head broccoli, cut into florets & blanched
1/2 head cauliflower, cut into florets & blanched
1 lb asparagus, trimmed & blanched
1/2 lb green beans, blanched
Cherry tomatoes
Red, orange or green peppers, sliced
1/2 lb small red potatoes (I didn't use)
1 belgian endive, leaves separated (I didn't use)
Roasted Garlic Aioli

Arrange prepared vegetables on platter and serve with aioli for dipping

Roasted Garlic Aioli

1 head garlic
1 T olive oil
1 c good quality mayonnaise
1 6oz jar marinated artichoke hearts
1 T Dijon mustard
Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 400F. Cut off pointed end of garlic, place on a piece of foil and drizzle with olive oil. Wrap tightly and roast for about 30-40 minutes or until soft. Let garlic cool and then squeeze the pulp from the cloves into the bowl of a food processor. Add remaining ingredients and process until smooth. Aioli may be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 4 days.


    Bookmark   February 1, 2013 at 8:42PM
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My very favorite on a vegetable tray with dip is raw sliced button mushrooms. Love snap peas and cherry tomatoes. a quick blanch and then cold water for broccoli florets. Makes them a beautiful green. and of course, carrot sticks, celery sticks and cucumber sticks.

    Bookmark   February 1, 2013 at 11:31PM
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I also love snap peas and I'll eat carrots and celery. I don't care for broccoli or cauliflower raw or even blanched, those have to be cooked for me, LOL. If you use cherry tomatoes, make them tiny so you don't have to bite them in half or you risk squirting the person next to you.

I also like sweet peppers although green ones can be strong, jicama, kohlrabi and raw turnip, all things I can get here in the winter time and they add some interesting flavors and colors.

If you do go with cauliflower, I've found orange and purple varieties also, they'd add some interesting color also.

Dip? I like the traditional dill vegetable dip but everyone else seems to love ranch. Doucanoe's garlic aioli sounds really good.


    Bookmark   February 2, 2013 at 1:52PM
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So nice to see that so many agree that cauliflower and broccoli should be blanched before being put on the veggie tray. Raw is nasty. And YES to snap peas if you can find nice ones, they are lovely and are a great addition.

As far as dips, I agree that offering 2 dips is best, I think both Lars and Linda's recipes sound great and I would go with those.

Have fun!

    Bookmark   February 2, 2013 at 3:05PM
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Another vote for raw brocolli and cauliflower. Both when cooked have a "gassy" smell that lingers in the house and goes out the door to. Ugh! If you can't find jicama, peel and stick slice some kohlrabi. It has a wonderful crunch and a similar taste.

Crudite means raw in French so I would keep with that.

    Bookmark   February 2, 2013 at 9:31PM
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This very well be a regional thing, OP. I'm 62, and have NEVER seen anyone EVER blanch vegetables for a veggie tray--and they're pretty much served for every kind of party anyone has around here. I've never heard of doing that before this thread, to be honest. Every supermarket sells already packaged platters of raw veg and dip, also.

Perhaps in other areas of the country, though, that may be the norm. So, you may want to consider that, ask around among your local friends before you make the decision. If blanced vegetables are standard in your area, that may be the way to go. If it's unheard of--then save the time, energy and cost of blanching.

    Bookmark   February 3, 2013 at 9:12AM
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Azzalea, I never blanched the broccoli or cauliflower either but my sons girlfriend taught me that when I was about your age. If you put the broccoli in boiling water for just a second or two and then in an ice bath, it doesn't taste cooked but looks really beautiful. Try it, I think you'll like it.

    Bookmark   February 3, 2013 at 9:30AM
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I agree with Azzalea on this one.

I am well past 62,
And have never ever heard of blanching
for a vegetable tray, either.
Until this post.

Yes, I can see where a quick dip in boiling water
would enhance broccoli's appearance.
But In my opinion they are not
at all 'nasty' tasting when raw,

I actually prefer them that way.

But, as we all know,
Taste is subjective.


    Bookmark   February 3, 2013 at 11:02AM
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I also vote for a quick blanching of broccoli and cauliflower and green beans for a crudite platter. Well salted boiling water, a dunk of about a minute, then plunge into ice water until they are cold.


    Bookmark   February 3, 2013 at 11:12AM
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I don't think raw cauliflower and broccoli are nasty at all. I sometimes serve them raw, but other times I do a very quick blanch, like 30 seconds or so. Depends on my mood, how much time I have and what dip I am serving them with.

I like them both ways, but I think I like them quick blanched just a tad bit more than raw. Especially broccoli.

Green beans I always blanch for a veggie tray. And asparagus, too.


    Bookmark   February 3, 2013 at 11:41AM
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Okay, I've been faithfully reading this thread. I'm amazed. Maybe, it's because we are hard core NFL fans. Maybe, it's because of some defective gene we have. But, never have we encountered or eaten a veggie tray at a Super Bowl party.(?)

I've tried to imagine DH sitting on the edge of his seat, it's 3rd and 1 from the 6 with seconds to go before half, the QB takes the snap, and DH says, "Hon, please hand me a couple pieces of that broccoli."

Nope, he's sure as the world going to load up a chip with whatever's handy or grab another wing maybe but that veggie platter isn't even on his radar. It's Super Bowl, for goodness sake. I realize we should be munching on healthy stuff but the reality is we don't.

Super Bowl, for us, here in New England as well as CA, TX, and CO has always been associated with bar, pub type food and beer (softdrinks for the kiddos). Are we the only ones that don't eat their veggies on Super Bowl Sunday?


    Bookmark   February 3, 2013 at 12:21PM
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Tricia, that's why I was sort of stumped. But if the host requested a "not too gourmet" veggie tray, then that's exactly what I plan on supplying.

I ended up with:
1) raw carrot sticks (not those baby carrots) and azalea, I made them short to prevent double dipping.
2) small red radishes with enough of the foliage left on top for holding
3) short celery sticks
4) thick slices of large white raw mushrooms
5) strips of red, yellow, and orange baby sweet peppers
6) lightly blanched broccoli florets, still nice and firm for dipping

All the dip recipes sound great but I made a from-scratch basic sour cream ranch one with some finely minced scallion tops added.

I'll let you know if any of it gets eaten.

    Bookmark   February 3, 2013 at 1:18PM
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I put some vinegar in the blanching water - it preserves the color of the veggie and makes them smell fresher too. The ice water bath after blanching is necessary too.

Whether to blanch or not is up to the individual, but when I do crudite for myself I blanch, uh actually more like parboiling, because I don't like eating some veggies raw. Also raw veggies can be hard to digest for some.

    Bookmark   February 3, 2013 at 2:16PM
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"Also raw veggies can be hard to digest for some."

Well, that does it for me. Just what I don't need tonight at the Super Bowl party.

Ruthanna, I'll be curious to read your post-mortem on the veggie platter. :)


    Bookmark   February 3, 2013 at 2:39PM
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I don't think raw cauliflower and broccoli are nasty at all. We took 7 year old DGS to dinner, he ordered broccoli as his side and told the waiter in a loud voice And don't cook it! The waiter said "oooookay".

    Bookmark   February 4, 2013 at 10:44AM
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I added a spoon to the dip and tongs to the platter when we got there. The host located it on the table that housed the Wing Bar.

Consumption: peppers, radishes and broccoli - no leftovers; mushrooms - one quarter left; carrots and celery - half left, which surprised me because I thought they would be the first to go.

Observations: physically fit friends and girlfriend of family's sons ( age group mid-20s to early 30s) were the main consumers of the vegetables. One of them brought a big bowl of fruit salad, which I was also surprised to see was gone by the third quarter. Again, the older generation mostly passed it by.

Conclusions: The host was right on target with the menu matching his guest list. I am glad I stuck with what he requested.
The blanching worked out fine.
The CF is a great place to clarify a cook's direction when making something not in their repertoire. Thanks again.

    Bookmark   February 4, 2013 at 10:47AM
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You confirmed my observation that the younger and/or physically fit folks are the ones who will consume the fresh fruit and raw veggies at a party.


    Bookmark   February 4, 2013 at 10:56AM
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beachlily z9a

I was horrified by eating habits a couple of weeks ago. We went to a "pig-out" hosted by a casual friend. We walked in to a group of a couple of hundred people, most of whom looked like bikers. This is the Daytona Beach area, and not unexpected. To be somewhat charitable, I was amazed at the number of overweight, over 50 men who only had meat on their plates. One guy say my glance and sneered at me. Well, I'm 63 and weigh about 125 and eat veggies all the time. We do vegetarian meals 2-3 times a week. If we have meat, both of us try to eat about 3 oz. at a time. Healthy eating isn't just for the young! And good veggies are great!

I think a good veggie tray is a lost art. Sorry I wasn't there!

    Bookmark   February 4, 2013 at 12:38PM
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Ruthanna, your veggie tray looks beautiful. It's been my experience if I do a veggie tray, that the mushrooms are the first to go and there's an awful lot of veggies left over but I still think it should be an option for the diet conscious, and the vegetarians , and for a well-rounded buffet if most people are considering it there dinner. Besides, I have an already prepared snack for me the next day or two.

    Bookmark   February 4, 2013 at 1:04PM
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Ruthanna, your veggie tray and dip look very appetizing! I'm sure I would sample everything....even the raw mushrooms which are not my favorite.

In your honor, I fixed some red bell pepper strips, carrot strips, and dill dip last night while I watched........Downton Abbey!

    Bookmark   February 4, 2013 at 1:06PM
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Ruthanna, your veggie tray looks beautiful! and I like the serving dish too. I am glad that it was a success!


    Bookmark   February 4, 2013 at 1:41PM
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Great job! Looks like my go-to veggie tray at our Super Bowl party, but we had snap peas instead of radishes.

    Bookmark   February 4, 2013 at 2:41PM
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I think that Linda's and Ruthanna's veggie trays look beautiful. But I must confess. There would have to be nothing else available before I would choose a veggie tray as an appetizer. I love vegetables, but I want them with dinner not as an appetizer.

Tricia I had to smile when I read your comments. I agree, not my idea of Superbowl food.

I have to agree with everyone that suggested blanching too. I find that Cauliflower, Broccoli and Cabbage only smell is they are overcooked.


This post was edited by ann_t on Mon, Feb 4, 13 at 15:44

    Bookmark   February 4, 2013 at 3:32PM
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If leftover mushrooms, carrots and celery were not handled, messed up etc I would be making a stir fry tonight.

    Bookmark   February 4, 2013 at 3:44PM
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I'm late to the party. I'm glad you veggie tray was a success Ruthanna!

I learned that I should blanch the broccoli. I've never done it, although I have wondered if I should.

Chi, your onion dip sounds good. Caramelized onions, yum!!

We were served this dip with the veggies this summer and I asked for the recipe. Easy as heck, and delicious!

Curry Vegetable Dip

1 cup mayonnaise
1 tsp horseradish
1 tsp dry mustard
1 tsp curry powder
dash lemon juice
2 tbsp sour cream
Chopped herbs can be added for even more flavour.

    Bookmark   February 5, 2013 at 7:36AM
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I love broccoli but I'm not crazy about it completely raw. So I'd rather have it quickly blanched and have it taste better - to me - than worry about the literal translation of the word crudite. (I admit, however, that I take minor issue with things like Legal Seafoods searing their tuna and still calling it raw sashimi.) Green beans are another that come to mind as probably benefiting from a blanch, though I've never had them in a crudite platter.

Ruthanna, your selection looks great, and Gina, I'll try adding vinegar to the blanching water next time.

    Bookmark   February 5, 2013 at 8:08AM
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Linda BF would adore that roasted garlic aioli dip! Interesting notes on the cauliflower and broccoli. I much prefer them raw but apparently some don't. I never seem to have much success blanching things, they always come out too "cooked" for my taste but maybe I have bad technique. It wouldn't be the first time!

    Bookmark   February 5, 2013 at 8:57AM
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Ok in case anyone is interested, I just did two experiments:

First I blanched four similar sized pieces of broccoli, two for 45 seconds, two for 90 seconds. (Cook's Illustrated recommends 1-1.5 minutes for broccoli.) For each cooking time I shocked one and let the other just sit on a plate. I placed them all in the fridge for a while to cool down.

Result - They were all pretty similar, but side by side I preferred those that had been shocked. The stems were the same but the flowers (or whatever you call them) retained a firmer texture on the shocked florets. The time differences had less of an impact.

I repeated the experiment, but this time added a splash of vinegar to the water. Maybe I didn't add enough vinegar but I didn't notice any difference off-hand. (How much do you use, Gina?) Because I needed to get rid of the vinegar, this time I gave the un-shocked veggies a quick rinse under tap water.

This time I couldn't really discern much difference at all. My guess is that the quick rinse was enough to stop the broccoli from steaming, so it helped keep the texture of the flowers.

My takeaway, next time I do a bunch I will stick with 45-60 seconds and will definitely shock them. My thinking is that with a larger amount of florets piled up there will be more residual heat to steam the flowers and this is what I don't want to happen.

YMMV, of course, and I'd expect different veggies to benefit from different blanching times.

    Bookmark   February 5, 2013 at 10:40AM
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FOAS thank you so much for the blanching tutorial. I am a terrible blancher! I think you nailed it, I usually blanch things for 1-2 minutes but from now on I'm going to try just under one minute!

    Bookmark   February 5, 2013 at 1:05PM
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Hi FOAS, according to, "acidulated water can be made by combining 1.5 tablespoons vinegar or 3 tablespoons lemon juice or 1/2 cup white wine with 1 quart of water."

The purpose of acidulation is to keep color and (arguably) nutrients. Just like squeezing lemon or lime juice over cut apples prevents browning.

I find acidulation using vinegar particularly useful in making the traditional Korean-style spinach side-dish. I like to make enough to last a few days, and find that the vinegar helps keep the blanched spinach looking fresher longer while refrigerated.

    Bookmark   February 5, 2013 at 4:17PM
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