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Tommy C. Simmons, An enthusiastic cook
Photograph Tommy C. Simmons

It’s time to think outside the plastic box when it comes to vegetable trays for spring parties. Supermarket-produced vegetable assortments presented in partitioned plastic platters, centered with a dollop of ranch-style dipping sauce, though convenient, are just too predictable. A more sophisticated vegetable selection would be a plate of fresh asparagus spears served with a spicy salsa dip.

If asparagus spears aren’t your favorite, whole green beans or jicama cut into sticks would work fine. The idea is to present something different in the vegetable line and see if guests aren’t delighted with the new choice.

I lightly steam vegetables before arranging. The steaming sets the color and makes the firmer textured vegetables easier to bite into.
Here is an easy dipping sauce to serve on your new vegetable tray:


Tommy C. Simmons home kitchen-tested recipe
Makes about 3 cups

2 cups fresh tomato salsa (use your favorite salsa recipe or pick up a container of fresh salsa in the deli section of your supermarket)
8 ozs. cream cheese, softened
1 cup shredded Cheddar cheese
1/4 cup butter, softened
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. cumin or chili powder, optional
Dash of Tabasco Chipotle Hot Sauce (to taste)

  1. Mix the ingredients together with an electric mixer.
  2. Check seasoning and add more spice if desired. Chill. Serve with steamed vegetables of choice.

Note: For pizzazz, hollow out a red bell pepper and fill with Creamy Salsa Dip. Position on vegetable tray and garnish with sprigs of parsley or cilantro and stuffed Spanish olives.

Tommy C. Simmons is a Southern food, entertaining, gardening, and arts enthusiast. She (Yes, Tommy is female. She was named for an uncle who was killed in World War II) is a national award-winning food writer/editor who retired in 2011 from The (Baton Rouge, LA) Advocate newspaper’s food editor position and now resides in the north Georgia mountains. Simmons is a member of the James Beard Foundation, the Association of Food Journalists, and the National Federation of Press Women.

Posted May 10, 2013



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