Get your garnish on

While studying culinary arts programs, students learn the importance of not only how their food tastes, but the way it is presented. A major part of adding the finishing touch to how a dish looks is with the use of a tasteful (and often tasty) garnish. Here are some tips for getting your garnish on:

Learn how to cut veggies
Anyone can chop a carrot into a million pieces and toss it on the plate. But can they shave it into a complex flower? Artfully arranging some peppers and cucumber alongside your main dish can be beautiful, but when you manipulate the veggies, the dish becomes even more stunning. Always be sure you have a sharp knife, as this will make your cuts much smoother and easier. A simple flower design can take as little as five minutes to create and your diners will appreciate the extra effort.

Common garnish options
We've all had a sprig of parsley half-heartedly tossed on top of a meal (any meal) as a garnish. There are plenty of other greens that are much more exciting and better-tasting. These are a few ideas that you might try on your next dish:

  • Curls of vegetables, cheese or chocolate for desserts. Use a peeler to slice thin pieces and arrange them atop your plate. If the main food that the curls are going on is hot, be sure to wait till the last minute before placing them or they may melt (cheese, chocolate).
  • Citrus peels can be cut into beautiful, thin wisps and added to cocktails, desserts and other items as a delicate, light topping. Most people won't eat them, but they are edible and a great addition to a chocolate cake or lemon meringue pie.
  • You may not think of sauce as a garnish, but when dolled out thoughtfully it can be just that. Sour cream is a popular option for soups, and salad dressing can be lightly drizzled atop some greenery so that it leaves a beautiful pattern on the salad and plate.
  • Piping bags are super helpful for garnish as well. Yes, they are commonly used for baked goods and desserts, but you can pipe the insides of deviled eggs or even mashed potatoes. Use a professional piping bag with shaped tips (star, flat line) to add texture to the plate.
  • Any herb makes a great garnish. Plus, these are super easy to add to whatever you're making at the last minute for some extra finesse. Sprinkle a few chives, thyme sprigs or basil leaves atop your fare and you've added a delicious and aesthetically pleasing element. Plus, your hands will smell great.
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