Fessing up here, I have a thing for cutesy individual sized foods, I can’t help myself. I think maybe in one of my past lives I must have been a caterer, or event planner or something. I love little crisps, crumbles and layered salads in mason jars, and appetizer dip cups that encourage you to eat and mingle at the same time. These salad cups solve the age old problem of how to serve salad to a crowd, especially an outdoor crowd. No more awkward gymnastics with tongs, no more soggy paper plates…or soggy salad for that matter…all you have to do with these elegant finger salads is grab one and go. You don’t even need a fork. Problem solved.
And I’m very happy with today’s post because I’m also giving you a bonus – a killer recipe for Rhubarb Vinaigrette, which could have been a post all by itself. It’s creamy, tangy, fruity, and really good. Pretty too! You can make it a day or two ahead and save yourself time.
I spooned a good bit of dressing into the bottom of each plastic cup, and then arranged my lettuce leaves and veggies on top. I put colorful heirloom cherry tomatoes on a pick for easy dipping.
You get extra points for tucking in a few fresh herbs, like basil and thyme. If you like you can slip slices of cucumber onto the rims of the cups.
You can see I used endive lettuce, and that’s important because this is finger food, and you want the leaves to have some ‘backbone’ to them, to hold up to being dipped and eaten by hand. I used both green and red endive, but you could also use very small romaine leaves if you can find them. Isn’t this fun?
The important thing is that you use really fresh ingredients. These cups won’t look very appetizing with wilted lettuce or wrinkled tomatoes, so use whatever looks good at the time you’re shopping. And while you can make the dressing a day or two ahead of time, I recommend you assemble these shortly before serving.
- 6 Tbsp fresh rhubarb puree (recipe below)
- 4 Tbsp champagne vinegar (or other mild white vinegar)
- 4 tsp honey
- 2 tsp Dijon mustard (I used whole grain)
- 4-6 Tbsp mild olive oil
- pinch of salt and black pepper
- 8 plastic tumblers, the kind that flare out, not the straight ones (mine were 10 oz)
- 8 appetizer picks
- 1 head green endive
- 1 head purple or red endive
- 1 yellow bell pepper
- 1 red bell pepper
- 2 carrots
- 8 scallions
- about 16 green beans
- 8 radishes
- 16 snap or snow peas
- about 24 small multicolored cherry tomatoes
- 8 small radishes
- fresh basil and/or thyme leaves for garnish
- To make rhubarb puree, wash and trim the ends off of several stalks of rhubarb. Cut them in 1 inch pieces.
- Put the rhubarb into a saucepan and add a splash of water. Bring up to a boil, turn down the heat, and summer it for about 5-10 minutes until the rhubarb softens. Add a little bit of extra water if it runs dry.
- Let the mixture cool a bit and then puree in a small food processor. Measure out 6 tablespoons for the dressing recipe.
- To make the Rhubarb Vinaigrette put all the ingredients in a small food processor and blend until creamy. Taste and adjust any of the ingredients to your liking. Refrigerate until needed.
- When ready to assemble the cups, spoon 2 tablespoons of the dressing into the bottom of each cup.
- Trim the ends off the endive and carefully separate the leaves. You will need about 3 leaves per cup. Trim the leaves as necessary, from the bottom end, so that they extend an inch or so above the rim of the cup, as shown in the photos.
- Cut the bell peppers and carrots into thin strips and layer them into the cups, along with the trimmed green beans, pea pods, and scallions.
- Thread 3 tomatoes onto each skewer and add it. Finish with the radish and herbs for garnish.
- The cups should be full but not crowded. Assemble just before serving.
Guess what? One month from today my oldest daughter is getting married! She and her boyfriend are very particular about how they want to do it, though. Just the two immediate families, no pomp, no circumstance. No flowers, not even a cake! (I know.) They are trying to buy a house, and have an admirably frugal attitude toward money. I am so proud of them for that, it’s just that my inner ‘event planner’ is itching to break loose. Maybe that’s what motivated these little salad cups today, I don’t know…but you guys have to help me find a creative way to get around that cake ban!