Ever since I created this Christmas Tree Crudite idea for a holiday appearance on Live with Regis and Kelly, I’ve been wanting to reconstruct it to take a photo and post it on my a blog. I received more questions about how to make this crudites display from the TV segment than any other food or decor ideas. It’s a time-consuming process (maybe an hour or two!), but you could make this crudite platter the day before a party and keep it fresh by covering the veggies with wet paper towels and putting it in the refrigerator. Helping hands can come from the kids, as my daughter inserted toothpicks into the veggies and then I inserted them into the tree base. This would make a festive veggie dish recipe centerpiece on a holiday party table or a nice side table vegetable arrangement for a more casual Christmas get together!
Christmas Tree Crudite’
2 heads green cabbage (1 small and 1 large)
2 bamboo skewers cut in half
1 box toothpicks
Green floral wire (1 paddle wheel of @22-gauge wire)
Small star-shaped cookie cutter
2 – 3 big bunches of kale, rinsed
1 head purple kale
1- 2 heads broccoli, rinsed
1 – 2 heads cauliflower, rinsed
1 bag baby carrots, rinsed
1 carton cherry tomatoes, rinsed
1 large yellow pepper, rinsed
(and any other vegetables that you like)
1. To make tree base structure: Trim the bottom (stem end) of the large cabbage a bit so it will rest level and place it on your serving platter. (I like to use a cake stand). Slice off a bit of the top part of the cabbage so you have a flat surface on which to place the smaller cabbage.
Insert bamboo skewers into the top of the base cabbage. Trim off a little of the rounded end (not the stem end) on the smaller cabbage so it is flat. Place the smaller cabbage, cut side down, on to the base cabbage and on to the skewers so they are secured to each other. The stem end of the smaller cabbage should be at the top of the tree base.
Check out the shape of your tree and trim the sides starting at the top going down to the base to give it more of a conical form. You only have to do this a little and mostly at the top. I usually start building up the tree with kale and veggies and then trim where necessary.
2. Using wire cutters, cut green floral wire into 40 (1-inch long) pieces and 20 (2-inch long) pieces. Bend wire pieces into a hair-pin shape.
Start building a vertical row of tree “leaves” using kale stems. I find it easiest to make the middle garland that winds up the tree and build additional rows of vegetables and kale above and below the main garland so all rows appear even. (TIP: If you have trouble visualizing the natural line of garland up a tree take a ribbon and let it wind once around the tree from top to bottom as a general guide.)
Begin at the tree base, placing the kale’s leafy side pointing down and stem side pointing up; break off excess stem. Insert the bended floral wire to discreetly anchor the kale in place. Overlap the leafy end of the kale as you place another stem up the tree and secure it with the floral wire.
3. After you have one kale row, add a row of veggies. Cut veggies with stems, such as broccoli and cauliflower, close to the floret and insert a toothpick into the end. Insert the toothpick into the cabbage base just above the kale garland. Use larger florets at the base and smaller ones at the tree top. It may be necessary to break toothpicks in half so they don’t poke out of the top of the veggie.
For carrots, simply insert a toothpick into the end and then into the tree. Carrots are the most difficult veggie to work with. Toward the tree top, you may have to cut carrots in half so they look right and are along the same plane as the lower carrots.
For cherry tomatoes, insert the toothpick into the cabbage base first and then put the tomatoes on the toothpicks, otherwise you may squish them (I have sqaushed many a tomato!).
4. Continue building rows of kale and vegetables up the tree. Tear off piece of purple kale and slip them above the rows of veggies like I did (see photo) for a colorful accent. Place kale around the bottom of the tree to fill it out.
Remember, you are making an edible work of art so you will be trimming the cabbage, adjusting kale, and possibly cutting more floral wire pieces to suit your work in progress. Your end result will be unique, beautiful, and a creative centerpiece that your guests will admire.
5. Cut the yellow pepper in half lengthwise and remove the stem and seeds. Flatten it out, cut side down, and use a star-shaped coolie cutter to make the tree’s star. Insert a toothpick into the top of the tree and slide the star on top as a festive finishing touch.
6. Place a bowl of your favorite dip next to the tree for guests to enjoy. I’ve found that most people love to look at this tree and view it as décor although the intent is for them to pull the vegetables off the tree and eat them. A variety of vegetables around the base of the tree on your large platter is a good idea if you wish to use the Christmas Tree Crudite’ as décor only. Also, prepare extra vegetables with toothpicks to replace those that guests have eaten during the party when the tree is looking sparse.
During the tree building process step back and “eyeball” the tree shape from all angles to make sure you are making a nice, even cone shape. Trim kale or adjust vegetables as necessary.
To make this tree a day in advance, store your tree wrapped in moist paper towels and plastic wrap and keep refrigerated until serving.