Move over, salad. There's a new creative way to eat your veggies, and it's beautiful.

By By Amanda Jedeikin

With the arrival of spring and the farmers' market bounty that comes with it, fresh vegetables are to be expected on restaurant menus, usually in the form of salads or side dishes. But this year, things are very different-just ask your local produce butcher.

Over the past few months, food experts predicted that several veg-centric trends were on the horizon. And vegetable charcuterie is among the most intriguing of the bunch. It's essentially a reinvention of the classic meat plate, minus the meat. In place of traditional cold cuts and animal protein you might find watermelon radish "prosciutto," parsnip "pastrami," or chestnut "pâté."

Unique vegetable plates have been spotted at restaurants in New York, Charleston, Philadelphia, and even in traditionally carnivorous cities like Chicago and Dallas. To achieve results that truly blur the line between produce and meat, chefs use techniques such as smoking, pickling, curing, and roasting, though raw greens with the right presentation have their place on the plate, too.

You don't need to be a gourmet chef to get in on the trend. A very basic garden board might involve thinly sliced raw vegetables and fruit, store-bought pickles, nuts, and seeds. (The board shown below even features a few salt-and-vinegar chips for good measure!) Here are some other tips to try the trend.

Feature a variety of flavors and textures. For example, tangy pickled cauliflower, sweet and savory roasted carrots, and crunchy smoked almonds.

Be creative with the presentation. "Root vegetables, such as beets, rutabaga, and carrots look beautiful thinly sliced and hold up well in a variety of recipes," says Steve Laurence, founder and managing partner of Vegan Commissary in Philadelphia.

Pickle your favorite foods. "Pickle broccoli stems, then toss with sea salt, minced garlic, and chopped dill," says Laurence, who also loves pickled blueberries. Just make a brine of salt (1 cup), sugar (1/8 cup), and champagne vinegar (3/4 cup of any white vinegar will do). Then, stir to dissolve, pour over berries, and refrigerate overnight.


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