The Swiss are famous for piling on the food, whether it’s an outsize serving of fondue (approximately 1 pound of cheese per person), or the outright terrifying Bernertafel, or “Bern plate,” a manhole-sized platter heaped with sausages with a little potato and pickle on the side “for digestion.”
Fortunately, they’ve devised a remedy for those of us who aren’t packing in the calories at lunch in preparation for a day of scrambling up mountaintops with goats. They call it the Fitnesstafel, or “Fitness Plate,” and we found it on various menus as we traipsed from Bern to Vaud to Basel a few months ago. I snapped a picture of one that Steve ordered, and here it is:
It’s basically a bunch of shredded veggies and some salad, lightly dressed, surrounding some type of protein. What better way to consume a ton of raw veggies? So I went to work developing this version. And since the key to the original inspiration is its simplicity, I assembled just a few workhorse seasonings that basically take care of everything. The lucky winners are: brown sugar, celery seed, salt, and cider vinegar, with some shallots lending support.
Now you chop, grate, and/or, in my case, play with a new toy. I had bought two crappy spiralizers because they were cheap. How could I lose?? D’oh. Fortunately, the sum total I paid for my two dumb spiralizers was still less then I would have spent in the first place. Lo and behold, my sister Becky said, “I have a spiralizer, do you want it?” So now I got the real deal, baby.
As you can see, it makes awesome psychedelic work of beet. I still haven’t gotten the knack of it with a carrot; this particular version likes a big round thing like a beet, not a skinny long round thing like a carrot. But seriously, this is fun, and I’ll try it more. That said, grating is also dandy.
For your cup o’ herbs, choose what you have on hand, or what sounds good, or both. I have learned from Yotam Ottolenghi (you can see his book Plenty, a personal favorite, in the background of the seasonings picture, along with books from my hero Bert Greene) that you really can mix fresh herbs with a fair amount of impunity. Dill seems particularly Swiss to me. The overall mix above—dill, parsley, mint, and chives—transported me to a Swiss meadow, which I hope everyone can experience at least once because Switzerland is awesome.
And then there’s cabbage. Wherever I am fortunate enough to travel, I can always count on cabbage. The stuff grows absolutely everywhere, no matter if you’re in the tropics or the Alps, and it’s always crisp. I get very Zen when I cut it, which I recommend, because it just takes a while to plow through.
Now, you have all these fabulous little raw salads.
I sort of picked and chose my herbs to keep each component somewhat distinctive, which you’ll see outlined below But if you want to just mix everything together in one carnival of flavor and color, feel free.
Protein is the key in the Fitness Plate, and it’s important to me to be able to offer a vegan version, so I relied on the awesome Seeds of Change rice/quinoa mix combined with chickpeas and some pine nuts. Using a little yogurt, either dairy or plant-based, gives you a little additional hit and just the right amount of creaminess to complement the crunch.
Steve could use a protein hit, and we had some leftover grilled chicken; you can see his salad in the background of the picture at the top of this post. Do what sounds good, but I can promise you that the vegan version will keep you full all day long as it sparkles up your tastebuds.