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Oct. 30, 2007

How to make a veggie turkey centerpiece

By Andrea Beveroth
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Paul Colletti
Andrea Beveroth and her holiday vegetable turkey.
More photos from this shoot
If you’ve lost sleep at night wondering how on earth you can make a turkey centerpiece like the one on the cover of Radish, have no fear! I will tell you how to do it in a few easy steps! Your creation will both impress and inspire, leading people to give you the much overdue adoration you deserve. With a few vegetables, some toothpicks and a sharp knife, you can dazzle everyone who comes over for dinner.

Step 1: Go shopping. Produce sections of grocery stores and indoor farmers’ markets hold the vegetables that will spark your imagination. Look for bright colors and interesting textures and shapes. For my turkey, I chose a butternut squash because it wasn’t too big and it was on sale. (I’m not made of money, you know!) If you are insane and have a lot of time, you could use a pumpkin or any other large, bulbous, body-shaped vegetable. For the neck/head and some of the feathers I bought some yellow squash, and I used a red chili pepper for the waddle. For the feathers, I used carrots, cucumbers and lettuce along with the yellow squash. Of course, you can very easily use almost anything sliced up, so let your imagination guide you! (Wings are optional; I used an artichoke cut in half.)

Step 2: Start slicing. Back at home, I started slicing up things on the cutting board while listening to music and singing along. (While making the turkey for the Radish cover, I was listening to Willie Nelson; choose your own favorite music or simply savor the silence.) You’ll want to cut the carrots lengthwise, like a hot dog bun. I choose to put a fringe along the edges of the slices to add that extra feather-like texture. I sliced the yellow squash at an angle to get an oval slice as opposed to a round slice. For a cucumber, just hold it perpendicular to the table and slice straight down, shaving just a bit off of the side. You should get an oval! Finally, wash and break off the leaves from a head of red leaf lettuce and set aside with the other cuttings.

Step 3: Build the body. Slice the larger end of the yellow squash (which will be the head and neck) so it looks a bit like an ice cream scoop. That way it will fit up against the butternut squash body a little better. Stick some toothpicks into the butternut squash and push the yellow squash into place.

Step 4: Attach the “feathers.” Stick toothpicks in a rainbow pattern into the back end of the butternut squash; these will hold the tail feathers. Start by sliding on some tiny pieces of lettuce (these look good and help to hide the toothpicks), then add a cucumber slice to each toothpick. Behind the cucumber put the yellow squash slices and then the carrots. (Your toothpicks should be like little kabobs.) Finally, add the large lettuce leaves for the complete plumage. Add extra toothpicks to help hold if needed. (Bonus tip: I used colored toothpicks so the colors would blend in with the vegetables — green with green, yellow with yellow, etc.)

Step 5: Make the face. Cut off the end of a chili pepper at a pretty steep diagonal and attach with a toothpick to the head of the yellow squash where you want your “waddle” to be. Leave a little bit of the toothpick sticking out the front to attach the beak. Cut a little bit of the end of a carrot into a pyramid shape and stick it on the toothpick. For the eyes, use two whole cloves.

Step 6: Add the wings. Slice an artichoke in half. Be careful — these suckers are tough and require a saw-like knife and some muscle! Again, stick a bunch of toothpicks in the sides of the butternut. I took out the heart of the artichoke so it would lay a bit flatter on my turkey, and then I pushed really hard until the artichoke halves stuck to the sides with the toothpicks. Finally, tuck in some lettuce edges around the neck line to cover the “seams.”

Voila! Display your turkey for everyone to see and be the culinary star you were born to be! All the vegetables are still edible, so if you want to use them later just make sure you get all the toothpicks out.

Shopping list
You also will need a cutting board, sharp knife and plenty of toothpicks. The turkey can be made up to a day-and-a-half in advance, if it’s covered, water spritzed and kept in the refrigerator. Wait to add the lettuce leaves the day of the event so they do not wilt.

Whole cloves (2)
Butternut squash
Yellow squash (2)
Red leaf lettuce
Carrots (about 5)
Red chili pepper
Cucumbers (2)
Artichoke (optional)

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