Tag Archives: caramel

How do I love thee?

Hi everyone.


Valentine’s Day was a good success at the hacienda, as my sweet baby and I did some great cooking at home.  Now, she still won’t let me cook the salmon in the dishwasher (its a thing…..Google it!). But we did a great job broiling it. Not sure what was in the marinade beyond the top couple of ingredients, but I will say it was sweet, with some smoky heat. It was a sweet Thai chili sauce with loads of grated ginger and some soy sauce. Beyond that, I don’t know what voodoo my GF used to make it. I CAN tell you it was outstanding with the salmon.


It was as delicious as it looks. We recycled my homemade creamed corn from an earlier post and added the very top of about a pound of broccoli florets, for a little contrast on the plate. I didn’t want to make the plate too bland in color. The little flecks of green in the corn also liven it up and is an easy ‘cheat’ for parents trying to sneak in some green veggies into their children’s plates.

The salmon fillet is sitting on top of a round presentation of Basmati rice. Again, we used a simple biscuit cutter to make that happen. Then we added a bit of extra marinade to the plate for color contrast, and to dip the salmon into. Throw in a touch of parsley for garnish, and I think this plate stands up pretty nicely to what you’ll find in restaurants on most nights.

“Well that’s great, Mario, but it isn’t necessarily ‘Valentine-ish.” Then feast your eyes on these variations:


First, its a basic chocolate lava cake. Nothing too fancy there. Its a perfect dessert for a man because its simple to assemble, quick to bake, and leaves you with loads of options to plate effectively. I threw in a few examples that my GF and I tinkered with after dinner.

The top photo is a quick effort at total symmetry.  We took one of her cookie cutters, covered the top in tin foil, put a sheet of paper at one point on the plate to create a sharp line, and dusted some cocoa on the cutter which left that cool highlight on the plate. I rotated the plate 180 degrees and did the same thing. I took some really thick caramel and ‘loosened’ it with some heavy cream until it got to a consistency I liked. Then I just ‘swooshed’ it on the plate using a spoon.  Topped it off with a quenelle of ice cream and a hint of the cocoa.  

Second version was the GF’s favorite. She’s a big fan of fruit overall, and certainly in her desserts. I think I’m going to buy her a couple of mint plants to keep around. We never seem to have fresh mint for garnish, and these desserts are absolutely screaming for it. Lesson learned!

For the second version, we added some thinly sliced strawberries on one end and used the cocoa dusting technique on the spoon you see highlighted on the plate. Finished off the spoon with a little bit of the thinned caramel. After I plated the second version, I began having second thoughts on adding the caramel sauce to the spoon. I’d welcome feedback on that one.

Finally, we used raspberries, took out the cocoa, and added just a light dusting of powered sugar. I think we also took a picture of a similar dessert we plated, but on a round plate. I’ll look for that, just for reference.

The key here is to see how many different variations of a great dessert you can plate using the following tools:  Spoon, sifter, cookie cutter, biscuit cutter. We had more fun imagining the options for plating than it took to actually plate. I’m telling you guys & gals, excellent plating doesn’t take long! 

Have fun this weekend, see if you can find a way to incorporate some of these techniques, and most importantly, have a GREAT time doing so!





Pumpkin Cheesecake Indulgence

Okay, whoever doesn’t love cheesecake, stop reading today’s blog now!  You’re either lactose intolerant, a practitioner of a diet, or are suffering from repeated kicks to the head. None of those of those things should make you stop reading this blog regularly:  just today’s blog.  🙂

My last post featured dinner, and one of two desserts completely plated. But as you’ll remember, the GF & I also cooked up a cheesecake that was looking pretty good coming out of the oven. We gave it the opportunity to cool off overnight and had a little fun with plating.
First, I should note we used a ‘fancy’ implement in the making of this dessert.

We used a hand mixer/boat motor to make some homemade whipped cream. Well, technically, we made Chantilly cream, as we added some confectioners’ sugar and a splash of vanilla extract. The boat motor was used to take the heavy cream to a “stiff peak” stage.

Sure wish the food community would come up with a better term for that, considering how suggestive it sounds. I swear I can’t hear Nigella Lawson say that expression without lighting a candle, and turning on some Barry White for mood music.

In any case, we put the Chantilly cream aside in the fridge to stay cool. Then we brought out the plate, a squeeze bottle, and some store bought (GASP) caramel. It had the consistency of fudge, so we thinned it out with some of the remaining heavy cream. You’re going to have to experiment with the cream to caramel ratio. You don’t want it so runny, it’ll splash right out of the squeeze bottle, but not so thick, it requires Olympian strength to get it out of the bottle either. Find that happy medium.

With the pumpkin cheesecake, there was also a delicate balance to maintain. The finished caramel should have a somewhat different color than the cheesecake. As you can see from the pic, I barely managed to make it happen on this occasion.  Hey, I wasn’t paying that much attention to what I was doing:  there was CHEESECAKE around!!! My advice is to either go a little darker or a little lighter than the color of the item on the plate. Contrast in plating is a good thing.

This part of plating is fun, and you should feel free to include kids (5-10ish) in the process. Let the kid squeeze out a modest amount of the sauce on the plate (from the squeeze bottle) in any decorative pattern you like. I went for some zigzagging lines; as usual, nothing fancy. I’ve seen this dessert plated with a tic-tac-toe pattern as well, so have a little fun.

FYI, these were salad plates used for this pic. I could say the cheesecake was deliberately scaled down to stay in “context with the plate.” But that would be a pretentious load of buffoonery. The real reason was that I can’t handle that much sugar at once. I put a rather large biscuit cutter in the middle of the cheesecake, and then cut smaller wedges extending outwards from the outside edge of the biscuit cutter. Of course, that did leave us with a hefty chunk of crust-less middle that my GF’s coworkers undoubtedly found irresistible.

Okay, aside is over; back to the plating.

You’ve got the caramel sauce on the plate, and a non-Cheesecake Factory standard sized piece of cheesecake adorning the middle. What’s left? Just a small dollop of Chantilly cream placed on the cheesecake as elegantly as possible. I’ll never know how many times it took that person to get it right on the packaging of Cool Whip. Of course, we’re not using Cool Whip here, so I’m sure the different textures have a little something to say about this. No matter! We’re having cheesecake, and that’s okay by me!

There you have it. Some pumpkin cheesecake made on a whim while the GF and I enjoyed some killer salmon cakes, and a chocolate galette.

You can use this plating technique with any sort of cheesecake you like, even if you buy one from a store, or from the Cheesecake Factory. Bring it home; add a little contrasting colored sauce to set the plate, and what the heck!  Throw on some of that Chantilly cream to top it off!

Make it an indulgence you enjoy with your family one Sunday of the month. It’s okay to splurge a little. Once the cheesecake is suitably cooled, It’ll take you all of 5 minutes to get everything you need set and ready to plate a great dessert!