In this case, the beauty of the dishes is quite obvious. One thing that’s been a struggle for me with vegetarian dishes up until recently, other than the fact that there’s no meat on the plate, is that often it’s difficult to make the plate really “pop” without the meal looking like just a bowl of succotash or some kind of meat-less stew.
Those of you that have followed this odd little blog for the last few months know one of my early homemade dishes was a great vegetarian ravioli (cheese/mushroom) with a fantastic homemade pumpkin sauce. For those that missed it, it’s the main pic of the blog, and the entire dish is shown below.
I learned from that meal that plating a killer vegetarian dish CAN be done. After last weekend’s indulgences over the Valentine’s Day weekend, it’s time to get back to the ‘root’ of things, so to speak. There’s a place in one of my favorite cities in the US (San Antonio) that puts a delicious and savory spin on classic Tex-Mex. Here, the folks at “Los Barrios Restaurant” (www.LosBarrios1.com) have outdone themselves with a beautiful quesadilla of sauted mixed vegetables and a flavorful avocado salad.
The dish itself is easy to plate. It features one of my favorite ‘cheats’ by using a biscuit cutter or ring mold to plate up the rice to keep it from taking up too much room on the plate. I bought a pyramid mold for things like rice and starches. You can look forward to some nifty meals featuring that food-mold in coming weeks.
The well cooked tortillas add some nice browning to the plate, and the vegetables add considerable color for eye-appeal. Throw in some delicious charro beans, and it’s a fantastic meal that’s easy to get on a plate.
There are some cultures that naturally lend themselves to the idea of vegetarian dishes, and one belongs to the great people of India. More often than not, the plating I’ve seen of Indian cuisine is somewhat utilitarian, and not always dramatic, although easy to pull off at home. I’m going to show you a meal that’s presented on a gorgeous banana leaf and is still somewhat utilitarian. The dish is called “Mudda Pappu” and the dish itself comes from “Sailu’s Kitchen” (http://www.sailusfood.com/2006/06/03/mudda-pappu-tur-dal-red-gram-lentil/).
It’s a very creative way of using a cooking ingredient to plate a classic lentil-based meal. Several cultures use banana leaves to cook food, from Asian, to Mexican, to Indian. This is a great example of how to use an ingredient for cooking as a method to plate.
Another creative way to plate an appetizer is to use slate. As seen below, you can buy yourself a piece of slate, some chalk you can borrow from your kid’s school kit, and you’re set. “Haystack Goatcheese” (http://www.haystackgoatcheese.com/last-minute-gifts-for-the-turophile-in-your-life/) offers up a great way to showcase your opening course for a dinner party.
This is another one of those items you can have your kids help plate up. It’s straight forward, Mom & Dad can slice up the different cheeses, and your kids can plate the complementary items (dried fruits, jams, & nuts) and write the names for you. Everyone wins with this appetizer, and you can give your kids credit in front of your guests.
Last idea for the day is a classic favorite: the perogie. Yes, I know it can be spelled many different ways, depending on which Central/Eastern European country your favorite recipe comes from. “Follow Me Foodie” (http://www.followmefoodie.com/2014/02/graze-vegetarianvegangluten-free-restaurant/) offers a beautiful review of a perogie dish served at a Vancouver restaurant called “Graze.” The meal is a yam & eggplant perogie with some incredibly complex flavors.
This one is a little tough for me to cook up at this stage. The plating isn’t “fancy for fancy’s sake” which you know always bugs me. But there are some dishes that are beyond my skill level to create in my own little kitchen. For example, if I were to try something like this, I wouldn’t make the dough from scratch. I’d probably buy a pie dough and try to adjust the flavor, and the thickness to more correctly match what’s expected for a perogie. The presentation is simple, colorful, and makes me hungry just looking at it.
Vegetarian meals from Mexican, Central/Eastern European, and Indian cultures were up today, and clearly show it’s possible to create and plate a robust, and delicious vegetarian, or vegan dish! Get in your kitchen this next week, and make something a little out of your comfort zone. You might surprise yourself.