For your next picnic or BBQ, upgrade your vegetables and dip.

Crudite is cropping up on menus across NYC, owed in part to the spring season's yield as well as the city's veggie-focused trend. And thanks to colorful vegetables and creative dips to go with them, the dish is often the star.

At Franklin Becker's health-conscious restaurant The Little Beet Table, the chef features a vegetable crudite with mint raita and roasted red pepper hummus as a starter.

"I love crudite personally; I think it's a great low-calorie snack for people," Becker says. "It really starts off a meal in the right way and tells everybody what the restaurant's about -- and that's quality, fresh, simplistic approach to produce."

The Little Beet Table's crudite features a mix of colorful, flavorful veggies, such as snap peas, radishes, broccoli, carrots and colored cauliflower.

"Pick the freshest, brightest, most varying in color and texture vegetables so that you can essentially paint a picture," Becker says. "Pick different shapes and sizes to add dimension, as well as complexity to the final presentation."

Becker goes to Union Square Market for his restaurant to find the highest quality veggies.

"Remember -- we eat with our eyes first, but if it doesn't taste good, no matter how good it looks, people aren't going to dive in for more," he says. "So you really have to make sure you're starting with the best quality ingredients."

Becker recommends blanching the vegetables for about 20 seconds to pop the color. You can also throw a pickled vegetable into the dish for contrast.

Both spreads feature heart-healthy fats in the form of olive oil. The roasted red pepper hummus also features nutrients from the chickpeas and red peppers. For the raita, Becker recommends using a low-fat yogurt (the restaurant uses 0% Fage).

As more veggies come into play, you can really experiment with the dish, too.

"Remember, springtime and summer is wide open, and crudite is literally up to the imagination," Becker says. "If you want to include some fruits, like beautiful, fresh strawberries, next to a piece of fennel, the results will be magnificent."


Little Beet Table's vegetable crudite with mint raita and roasted red pepper hummus

 

Mint raita
1 cup Greek yogurt
Juice of 1 lemon
1 tbsp. chopped fresh dill
1 tbsp. chopped fresh mint
1 tsp. kosher salt
1 garlic clove, crushed into paste

Combine all ingredients into a mixing bowl and whisk until well incorporated. Check seasoning and reserve.

 

Roasted red pepper hummus
1 cup cooked chickpeas
2 tbsp. red pepper puree [Combine jarred roasted red peppers, strained, with olive oil (1 tbsp. oil per cup of peppers) and puree in a blender until smooth.]
1/3 cup olive oil
2 tbsp. tahini
Juice of 1/2 a lemon
1 tbsp. cold water
1 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. sumac

Combine chickpeas, water, tahini, salt and pepper and puree in food processor until smooth. Add lemon juice and sumac and blend for 30 seconds. With processor running, slowly drizzle in olive oil to bind. Check seasoning and reserve.

 

Vegetables
Colored cauliflower
Snap peas
Broccoli
Carrots
Radishes 
Yellow wax beans
Kohlrabi
 
Kohlrabi and carrots should be peeled and diced and served raw. Snap peas, radishes and yellow wax beans can be served raw as well. Blanch the cauliflowers and broccoli in heavily salted water like you would for pasta for roughly 20 seconds. The idea behind this is to maintain the colors, and just bring the starch flavor out of the raw vegetable while still maintaining a high level of crispness to each vegetable.