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Great Garnishes

Adding some panache to your plate makes each meal standout, and a great way to create professional-looking dishes is to add a garnish. With the tips and tricks we’ve assembled below, each dish you serve will not only taste spectacular, but look spectacular as well.

Tools for Great Garnishes

  • Garnishes are the food accouterment added to dishes that typically come out of restaurant kitchens. Either artfully placed by a chef or added at the last minute by a server, they are the bits of whimsy that make plates memorable to the eye before they pass the lips.

Although they are usually edible, garnishes sometimes are not: Occasionally, raw foods are carved, shaved or twirled to resemble flowers or geometric shapes that enhance something being served. Regardless of medium, here are a few tools you likely already have in your kitchen that can help you make some simple garnishes:

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  • vegetable peeler
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  • paring knife
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  • toothpicks (decorative ones made of bamboo or ones with decorations go the extra mile)
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  • microplane or box grater
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  • melon baller

Garnish 101: Go-to Herbs

Whether you are making something from scratch like sauce - or you have decided to serve one from Bertolli®’s Vineyard Premium Collection - add herbs found in the meal's ingredients to complement the dish. If your sauce boasts basil, for example, a sprig of two or three fresh, green leaves on your plate will give it more life than serving it with nothing.

Turn Your Plate Inside-Out

Often garnishes reflect an ingredient from what you have prepared, but they don’t have to: It is as natural to offer a lemon wedge with seafood even if the dish has no lemon as it is to introduce a complementary flavor like Parmigiano Reggiano on pasta that was not made with cheese.
With the tools listed above and these ideas below, you can decorate your plate any way you wish. Here are some suggestions to get you started:
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  • Using a vegetable peeler, curls of Parmigiano Reggiano, Pecorino Romano, or Asiago cheese are good additions to pasta, salad, or green vegetables like beans and broccoli.
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  • Though not edible, paper-thin slices of lemon rind look lovely on grilled fish and impart a little flavor without the bulk of a wedge on the plate. As an alternate, use a citrus zester or a vegetable peeler to make curls of lemon zest. Or use a microplane to zest lemon, lime or orange to add citrus flavor you can actually eat.
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  • Salad can be garnished with ingredients like sunflower seeds, golden raisins or other dried fruit and nuts, but consider making its ingredients attractive from the start by using a vegetable peeler in unusual ways. Add sweetness by thinly shaving apple or pear into greens; remove the seeds from a halved cucumber and make ribbons instead of chunks; or, peel long strands of carrots or red peppers instead of cutting them with a knife.
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  • Want to make an easy rosette for your plates? As thinly as you can, slice a potato, apple, zucchini or otherwise pliable produce item into a ribbon or disc. Roll them up and place them on the plate to form a flower (or secure them with a toothpick to hold them together even better). For more decoration, a basil or sage can act as the flower’s "leaves."
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  • Cooked foods can make great garnishes: Thinly sliced onions, leeks or potatoes can be fried crisp and piled on top of cuts of beef, pork, or anything else you want to dress up.
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  • Scallions that are thinly sliced at the ends in a way that makes them look frayed can add texture to a plate...even if the dish doesn’t contain scallions.
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  • A small-size melon baller can be used on melons or other soft- to medium-hard fruits like kiwi, apples, pears, or even peaches. Use a toothpick to place a few bites together and place on the side of a plate that needs bright colors.
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  • Use small cookie cutters to create shapes from slices of cheese, bread, cakes, pies, cookies, or anything else you want to use to enliven the side or top of your plates.

Sweet Endings

Dinner is your weeknight meal’s main event, but even if dessert makes only occasional appearances in your house, you can make it pretty by following these few tips:
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  • Confectioner’s sugar shaken gently through a sieve makes a nice topping for store-bought or homemade cake that is dark colored. Cocoa does the same for desserts that are creamy white.
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  • Using a microplane, grate a cinnamon stick or a ball of nutmeg over ice cream, pudding, or even a cup of coffee or hot chocolate for a spicy twist. No cinnamon stick? Gently sprinkling ground versions does the trick too.
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  • Use a vegetable peeler to curl ringlets of chocolate from a chocolate bar over just about anything.