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Menu Ideas & Planning

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Getting Creative: Top Ten Garnishes

Make even weeknight meals special, these super easy techniques will have you finishing your dishes like a pro!

AK Home Cooking Solutions1) Curls & Twirls. Use a vegetable peeler to shave large curls from wedges of Parmesan cheese or milk chocolate bars. For example:

  • Top salads or pasta dishes with curls of Parmesan.
  • Arrange chocolate curls on simple pudding or cupcakes.
  • Create a professional bakery look on the Amazing Red Devil's Food Cake, by making large curls from either milk or white chocolate (or both!) and using them to cover the top of the frosted cake.

2) Savory Skewers. Use large toothpicks or small wooden skewers to present complementary food for entrees, salads or soups. For example:

  • Arrange one or two small skewers of cherry tomatoes, fresh basil leaves, and cubes of fresh mozzarella on a salad.
  • Thread pieces of cooked sausage and cubes of crusty bread onto picks and serve with hearty bean soups.
  • Weave ribbons of thinly sliced ham around cubes of buttered dark rye bread and thread onto skewers; broil until bread is toasted, then serve on the rims of bowls of Creamy Potato Soup.

3) Garnish with Gremolata. Top entrees and soups with gremolata, an Italian garnish consisting of chopped parsley, garlic and lemon peel. Try other combinations of herbs and citrus peel to play off the flavors in the main dish. For example:

  • Minced lime peel, cilantro and toasted coconut on top of grilled shrimp.
  • Minced lemon peel, basil and shallot on top of baked chicken.
  • A bright, refreshing gremolata of chopped parsley, lemon peel and sliced green onions makes the flavors of Pennsylvania Dutch Ham and Noodle Casserole really pop.

4) Add Chives. Use chives to garnish any savory dish. They can be used whole or cut into shorter sections and tossed on top of an entree like pick-up-sticks. You can also thread chives (they're hollow, like straws) with short pieces of dry spaghetti and stick two or three upright in the dish.

  • You won't believe how nice fresh chives look, especially on Asian Chicken with Peanuts. Cut them into 3-inch sections and toss randomly on top of this great-tasting dish.

5) Take a Spin with Shrimp. If you're serving fish, top with a few corkscrew shrimp: Cut shrimp in half lengthwise, then saut� briefly in butter and chopped parsley. As they cook, the shrimp will tighten and form little corkscrews. Place a few on top of each serving of fish.
Dress up Broccoli Fish Bake with corkscrew shrimp. For deeper color, sprinkle a little paprika on the shrimp during cooking.

6) Special Sour Creams. Mix sour cream with fresh herbs or pantry staples to top any number of chicken, fish, or beef dishes. For example:

  • Dollop cilantro-spiked sour cream on top of chili or black bean soup.
  • Stir adobo sauce from a can of chipotles into sour cream and use to top Mexican dishes, like enchiladas and tacos.
  • Cool down the sizzle of Mexican Chicken & Rice by garnishing with sour cream enhanced with chopped cilantro and minced lemon peel.

7) Slices & Sprigs. Lemon or lime halves paired with a sprig of cilantro or parsley gives a plate a simple splash of color.

  • Super-satisfying Pan-Seared Salmon with Peach Mango Sauce has both lime and cilantro in the recipe. )Here's a chance to add great looks by serving it with a fresh lime half and a few sprigs of cilantro.

8) Add Flecks of Color. Stir chopped fresh herbs into cooked rice.

9) Piping isn't Just for Desserts. Buy an inexpensive pastry bag (or even use a resealable plastic bag with the corner cut off) and large star tip to pipe mashed potatoes, deviled eggs, and whipped cream.

10) Make Food Dance with Salsas. Make salsa out of fruits or vegetables that complement the entree, then use as a topping. Example:

  • If you're serving pork, a combination of diced apples, minced sage, red onion and melted apple jelly makes a fantastic garnish.
  • Stir together a salsa made of fresh corn, diced red pepper, green onions and a little lime juice.

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