Some Assembly Required

An expertly curated platter makes for ideal late-summer eating.

By Tejal Rao

One of my favorite things to do on my birthday is to throw my own dinner party (yep, I’m a Leo). A grand aioli is always a strong contender in late August, and Kay Chun’s is calling to me with its bright green aioli, packed with herbs, which you can easily make vegan — notes on that below.

I also love the Indonesian dish gado gado, which is built around homemade satay sauce. Hetty McKinnon’s version is made with ripe summer tomatoes and extra-firm tofu, and I might wash some big, crisp lettuces and fry some rice cakes to have on the side, too. Naz Deravian’s guide to naan-o paneer-o sabzi, the snacky Iranian dish with cheese, herbs and fruit, is a useful reminder that you don’t even need a sauce at the center of an expertly built platter.

Cooking this way in the summer is great because it’s hardly cooking. But that doesn’t mean you can’t go all out! Sure, you can approach a grand aioli as a simple, pared-down meal, and it will be delicious. But you can also think of it as a proper feast, prepping with a sense of absurd largess, filling several platters with a ridiculous variety of things.

I aim for a range of raw ingredients with crunch (pretty lettuces, cut radishes, sweet cucumbers); blanched tender vegetables (yellow wax beans, asparagus, potatoes); and lightly pickled vegetables (cauliflower, green beans, okra). I like some grilled vegetables on the table, too, like eggplant, artichokes, peppers or squash, dressed in lots of olive oil, lemon zest and herbs. And if there’s still room: a cutting board full of sliced tomatoes showered in salt, a plate of halved hard-boiled eggs, and a good loaf of bread with butter on the side.

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Grand Green Aioli

Go to the recipe.

Gado-Gado

Go to the recipe.

Naan-o Paneer-o Sabzi

Go to the recipe.

One More Thing!

If you want to make a vegan grand aioli, mix a big batch of vegan mayo using aquafaba, the starchy liquid inside a can of chickpeas (save the chickpeas for a quick hummus to add to the spread!).

Here’s one adapted from the condiment company Sir Kensington’s — just add a clove of garlic to the blender to make it more aioli-like, then finely chop herbs such as parsley, tarragon or chives to stir in at the very end, when the mayo is completely emulsified.

Vegan Mayo

In a blender, or using an immersion blender, mix ½ cup aquafaba with 1 teaspoon white vinegar, 1 teaspoon sugar, 1 teaspoon lemon juice and 4 teaspoons dry mustard powder. With the blender still running, slowly — very slowly! — drizzle in 1 ½ cups sunflower oil until mixture is thick, creamy and emulsified.

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