Ahh, yes. The veggie tray. Pre-cut carrots, broccoli, grape tomatoes (if you’re lucky) and a tub of ranch dip. It’s a perfectly acceptable platter to bring to a party—but why aim for average when you can transform it into something mouth-watering with just a few tweaks? When picking up your veggie tray at the grocery store, go ahead and grab a pre-assembled meat and cheese tray and a few extra tubs of dip. If you feel like the veggie or cracker game is weak in the pre-packaged trays, grab some extra pre-cut fruits and veggies, plus extra chips or crackers.
The first thing you need to do is to get all your food away from plastic. Swap the flimsy tray with all its compartments for a large serving plate, platter or board. Hey look! Fancier already. You also need to find some new bowls for those dips. Pick out two or three bowls (depending on how large your platter is) that match the look of your tray.
Arrange your bowls on the platter. When it comes to styling food, symmetry isn’t always the answer. In fact, if food is arranged too perfectly, it’s easier to notice the imperfections. Set the bowls towards the middle of the platter, but not perfectly aligned with each other or the platter.
Fan out the goods. Keep meats and cheeses together near the crackers. Alternate colors of the fruits and vegetables and split up groups of food if you need more variety. Again, don’t focus on symmetry—just focus on filling up the space.
With all your goodies in place, all that’s left to do is add the dips. Transfer pre-packaged dips to the bowls on the platter. If your dip came with any topping, scoop the topping off first and carefully reserve it in a bowl or on a plate. Transfer the rest of the dip to its new bowl, then gently put the toppings back. If your dip didn’t come with toppings, feel free to throw in your own. Hummus likes a drizzle of olive oil and pine nuts. Ranch dressing looks much more appealing with a sprig of parsley on top. Don’t go overboard on toppings—a little goes a long way.
And that’s it! A beautiful grazing board in a matter of minutes. And if anyone asks, yes! You totally cut all those vegetables yourself and made the dips by hand. Is it cheating? Who cares—it looks delicious.
If you have some extra minutes to spend on your party platter, a few homemade dips will boost your spread in a big way. Here are some of our favorite, time-saving dips that serve well at room-temperature: