Classic Relish Tray

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    The Classic Relish Tray

    An easy appetizer platter
    LOVE_LIFE / Getty Images

    The classic relish tray isn't seen much anymore, but it's still a fun and easy party food. It's somewhere between a crudité platter and an antipasti plate and serves as a nice palate cleanser. It can be put out before other food as an appetizer, to crunch on with drinks, or as a side dish while a full dinner is served. It provides nice bites of crisp freshness during the meal.

    Dips and spreads are not traditionally part of a relish tray, but you can place a small dish of sea salt in the corner of the tray for people to dip the veggies into if they're so inclined.

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    Carrot Sticks

    Rainbow carrots
    Molly Watson

    Crunchy carrots, peeled and cut into long, elegant sticks are the traditional star of a relish tray. Mix things up by using different colored carrots, or kick up the flavor by serving pickled carrots instead of the plain raw version.

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    Celery Sticks

    Bunches of celery
    David Gomez

    Chilled celery provides a refreshing crunch with every bite. Be sure to taste the bunch you have on-hand first since older celery or celery grown under too much heat can take on a bitter edge that you may not want to include on your relish tray.

    Trim the stalks and cut them into long, elegant strips before adding to your tray.

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    Mixed olives in a pile
    Margherita Wohletz

    Along with carrot sticks and celery sticks, olives are also essential to a traditional relish tray. They add a salty bite which is a lovely counterpoint to the mild sweetness of the fresh veggies. Classic versions add canned, pitted black olives, but you can also select tasty delights from the olive bar at the local specialty grocery store. If you want to serve them pitted, pit them yourself before serving.

    You can stop here when making a basic relish tray. But why stop now? Add a few more items to take your relish tray to the next level.

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    A pile of radishes
    Mitch Diamond / Getty Images

    The bright crunch of fresh radishes adds both color and a peppery sharpness to a relish tray. Trim them and serve whole or cut in half or into quarters. If their greens are in good shape, you can leave some attached for a pretty effect.

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    A pile of fresh fennel
    Vicki Smith / Getty Images

    The anise flavor of fresh fennel is a palate-cleansing addition to a relish tray. Trim off the long dark green stalks, trim the bulb, and cut into thin wedges. Use some fennel fronds to garnish the tray.

    You can also add pickled fennel to your tray. It's still nice and crunchy but with a refreshing tartness.

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    Marinated Mushrooms

    Marinated mushrooms
    Molly Watson

    They're not pickles, but some time in a vinegar marinade transforms these marinated mushrooms into something special. They add plenty of flavor and a new texture to a relish tray. This marinated eggplant provides a similar effect but you'll need a fork to eat it.

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    Pickled Asparagus

    A jar of pickled asparagus
    Molly Watson

    Bright, snappy pickled asparagus adds a salty, vinegary element to a relish tray. Just be sure to pat them dry before adding them to the tray so that the brine doesn't get all over the place or drip down people's fingers.

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    Pickled Green Beans

    Pickled green beans
    Molly Watson

    Like pickled asparagus, pickled green beans can stand on their own as a snappy little snack. They're easy to pick up and eat with your fingers and blend in nicely with the rest of the relish tray components. 

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    More Pickles

    A jar of pickled cherries
    Molly Watson

    Some pickles, like cornichons or pickled okra, work like additional vegetables on the relish tray, adding a fresh but salty, tangy element. Other pickles have more of the tasty tidbit role, much like olives. Pickled garlic, pickled garlic scapes, pickled cherries, and lemon pickles all add little bursts of flavor to the spread.

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    Hits of Spice

    Korean-style Brussels sprouts
    Molly Watson

    Kick things up a notch with some spicy additions to your relish tray. These Korean-style brussels sprouts are a nice touch, as are pickled jalapenos and spicy cucumbers.

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  • 12 of 12

    Something Sweet

    Strawberries in a colander
    Molly Watson

    A lightly sweet element is a nice change of pace for a relish tray. Try adding some fresh summer berries or a few figs or grapes. Sweetness can also be added with a dollop of cooked fruit, such as fig coulis, cranberry compote, or plum chutney.