Tag Archives: pumpkin

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder!

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.  Image

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.



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!