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Whole Gourmet Natural Cooking

Alison Anton's Natural Cooking Blog offers healthy recipes, inspirational food articles and culinary advice for the natural chef, and features dessert recipes from her upcoming cookbook, Desserts for Every Body.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Presentation is Everything...

Istock 000001080562Small...Well, almost. Good food is good food. But good food taste that much better when it is presented in a tantalizing and attractive way. Presentation sets the stage, making the event a more pleasurable and successful experience, whether it’s a formal party or a casual dinner with your family.

Simple yet decorative plates, an attractive place mat and real cloth napkins work wonders for bringing your guests or family into the dining experience. Even take-out spaghetti and meatballs served on a nice plate and cloth napkin will help the food come alive. But it won’t happen served right out of the styrofoam with a plastic fork and paper napkin. It really does make a difference!

Next is the garnishing. People really appreciate that extra little touch of color. It gives the food a splash of life and helps it pop out on the plate. It accentuates. Much of the time, people don’t even notice the actual garnish. What they do notice, though, is that the food somehow looks incredibly appetizing.

Even kids will subconsciously notice the difference. They see attractive colors, an interesting arrangement, and most importantly, the extra love and care that went into their plate of food. They may not say so on the outside, but they know it and remember it on the inside.

I always have sprigs of fresh herbs in the crisper to use as simple garnishes. But the garnishing possibilities are endless. Grated lemon or orange peel work beautifully.

If you have a garden, edible flowers are always attractive. Colorful ground herbs such as mild paprika or turmeric sprinkled around the plate edges add a contrast in color. Even black pepper or a drizzle of oil can be a quick fix to a drab dish.

Chive Garnishing Oil
1-2 bunches fresh chives
Olive oil

Place the chives in a food processor or blender and purée. While the machine is running, add a little olive oil through the feed tube to form a desired consistency for drizzling. Drizzle over soups, entrées, or around plate edges for a bright green splash of color.

Infused Flame Oil
1/4 cup olive oil
1 1/2 teaspoon mild paprika
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
6 whole cloves
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
1 bay leaf

Gently heat the oil over low heat in a small sauté pan. Add the remaining ingredients. Keep the oil warm, but do not over-heat, as the spices will become bitter and the oil rancid if it gets too hot. Infusion is complete in about 15 minutes. Strain the liquid and discard the solids. Use as a drizzled garnish over soups, entrees, or around plate edges for a red splash of color. This also makes a delicious flavor enhancer for steamed vegetables and meats.


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