Monthly Archives: March 2014

Color as an element of plating

I’ll admit it. I’m still troubled by not being able to seriously plate something more than a couple of ingredients in height. Keep trying, but not yet succeeding. There was a slightly different plan for this plating, and I tried to replicate something I saw in a restaurant in Malibu recently. That dish was seared ahi tuna on a bed of green beans, surrounded by a ‘moat’ of mashed potatoes.

That WAS the plan, but it didn’t work out quite the way it was intended. The GOOD news about the failure, is it provided an excellent opportunity to showcase how color contrast on a plate can lead to an eye-catching meal for you and your guests.

Tonight, we have a meal the GF & I cooked a couple of weekends ago. (Yes, the vertical plating thing has been bugging me a while) The meal was a turkey, feta cheese, and sun-dried tomato meatloaf with mashed sweet potatoes and a ginger/orange marmalade on the green beans.


The meal was as good as it looks. Wasn’t completely sure whether to add the gravy to the plate, for fear of covering up the beautiful colors featured in the meal. We have creamy white (cheese), red (tomatoes), green (beans), and orange (sweet potatoes) featured on the plate. It’s a great combination of color, and the palette really excites the palate. 

The fanciest tools can certainly make the plate ‘pop,’ as I often elude to with my use of molds, swirls, and such. But sometimes, it can be equally effective just to let the food speak plainly for itself. Seemed like a good idea to do just that since “PLan A” didn’t work out. “Plan B” sure did, though! Don’t worry, I’ll keep trying the vertical plating. Thinking the GF and I will try another tasty dessert next.

Get in your kitchen at least one night this busy week, and take the extra 30 seconds to plan how the food will look on your plate. Everyone enjoying your delicious food will thank you for it!




Essential Tools For Plating

You know, after this bit of a layoff in writing, I was planning to come back and discuss ‘vertical plating.’  From a plating standpoint, its really the key thing I don’t “do” well just yet.  Vertical plating is what the name implies: Your food is stacked, to some degree. I haven’t figured out how to do it consistently, so my efforts are only about 2 layers high, as seen below.


That’s the salmon with a homemade Thai chili sauce and the creamed broccoli/corn.  The salmon is served over a molded ’round’ of basmati rice, and thus, its vertical. What I can’t figure out is how Chef’s integrate multiple ingredients in a way that is, as my GF says, “artfully happenstance.”

This next example of vertical plating is so bad, its why I still started this post with the idea of plating. I won’t even tell you where it came from, mostly to protect the innocent.  Believe it or not, its a Caesar salad.


Okay, THAT’S lousy vertical plating.  I’m done, and its out of my system. Changing topics!

I’ve spent the last several months of this blog obliquely talking about good plating, and showing some of my ideas of plating, but I haven’t often told you what tools you should consider getting for good plating, beyond my trusty ring molds, and my new pyramid mold. Yes, I’ll be doing some nifty desserts in the future with that, to be sure…so stand by.

I want you to read this blog post from “The Chef’s Tool Box.” Its about the essential tools needed for restaurant quality presentation.

I won’t crib photos from this one, since these are the real pro’s and you should see it for yourself. The first image on the post is an nice example of vertical plating, and is much more attractive than the Caesar salad seen above.

The essence of the blog post describes the various tools you’ll need in your kitchen to really pull off a lot of great tricks to make your dishes ‘pop.’ The good news for all of us aspiring Chef’s is that most of these items are inexpensive. Interestingly enough, the first one the Chef lists is a tool I don’t have, which is an emulsifying blender. I call them ‘stick blenders’ or ‘boat motors.’ Thinking I should get one this weekend.

Up next on the Chef’s blog is something you’ll need for desserts especially: a “silpat.” It’s a silicone-based baking mat that’s non-stick. These used to cost a fortune, but you can score one now for around $20 bucks. While they’re fantastic for desserts, the one cool thing I really want to make with these is a ‘parmesan cookie.’

The lovely Cara over at “The Cocina Monologues” shows what I’m talking about here. (

She calls them “frico,” or “parmesan chips.”


This works with the stuff in the green container from the grocery store, too. She explains how to bake them so you get these nice ‘cookies’ to either plate with a nice steak (my idea) or crumbling it over a salad to give it some great texture.

Another item mentioned in the blog post that I’ve used regularly is a zester/grater, sometimes referred to as a ‘microplaner.’ It’s a neat tool for either the main meal or dessert. A great idea is to zest an orange with the microplaner to add some killer flavor to your batter for a chocolate galette or basic lava cake.

You’ve seen my use of a ring mold, so I won’t spend anymore time on that here. The Chef also mentions using ‘brushes’ for food, which is a neat idea.  I’ve used it a couple of times cooking with the GF. Oh, and pick up some squeeze bottles from Amazon!  You’ll need these for sauces like the caramel one below!! That was the homemade cheesecake the GF & I made a few weeks back.


Finally, there’s the “garde manger” which is explained in the blog. Basically it’s the swiss army knife toolkit for a chef to get fancy with food. Now, you know I don’t want to get overly fancy with the presentation. My objective with this blog, as you know, is to show you how to plate quickly, but effectively, for your home cooking needs! But I will admit, the little melon baller in the “garde manger” is something I could use for desserts.

Again, go check this blog posts here for more information on what you’ll need to add to your kitchen to plate great. Now get out there and do some good cooking, and Happy Friday, everybody!