Food for Thought

(Oct. 19, 2018) There is nothing more disconcerting than following the path of conventionality.

Originality, perseverance and perfection are crucial and determine the degree of success. This detailed process is a must for those who relish culinary advancement.

Food must not only tickle one’s fancy but also be visually enticing. Clients spend enormous amounts of money on food photographers and food stylists to make their product look appealing.

Plating food is not only a big business but also an art. Following are tips on how to create a beautiful plate.

Selecting the proper serving dish is imperative for creating a beautiful plate. One must think of themselves as an artist. The plate is your blank canvas and the food is your medium.

Choosing the right size plate is also important. You want to make sure it is big enough to allow your food to stand out, but small enough that your portions do not look too small.

The color of the plate is also significant. White plates are popular because they create high contrast and provide a neutral background for your colorful creations. Black plates can also highlight your dishes and provide an even more dramatic finish.

The placing of ingredients requires specific attention; arbitrariness is not an option. Everything that goes on the plate has to have a reason.

For example, the placing of asparagus entails many details. Should they be stacked or fanned out, should they be placed next to the protein, or placed at an angle next to the starch? Should the asparagus be peeled from the head to the base of the stalk? As you can see there are many choices and it is these particulars that set you apart from other cooks.

If you are serving small foods or bite-sized appetizers, always give guests odd quantities. Odd amounts produce more pictorial appeal and coincide with the shape of the plate.

If you are utilizing a round plate, think in terms of composing a triangle as opposed to a square. Three focal points are much more interesting on a round plate than two or four focal points. Also, placing the food off-center can be very eye-catching.

Placing food to create flavor bites is an updated twist on traditional plating. Essentially, you slide your fork to combine all the ingredients on the plate to form one bite. This particular style of plating allows one to show off their artistic skills.

Deconstructing a dish as opposed to serving it in its traditional form is another way to obtain stunning results. Any deconstructed dish should contain all the classic components found in the original. The difference is the presentation.

When creating a dish utilizing deconstructive techniques, the ingredients are essentially prepared individually which is conducive for interpretation. In other words, the diner should be able to relate the dish’s final flavor to the original recipe, although there may be no direct similarity with the presentation.

Deconstruction is usually applied to appetizers, starters and desserts, although there is really no limit other than the chef’s imagination. For the sake of clarity, let us deconstruct a classic guacamole recipe.

Traditional guacamole contains avocados, lime juice, cilantro, red onion and salt. Other ingredients such as jalapenos, tomatoes, garlic and cumin can be added according to personal preference.

First, we need to decide what type of plate will be used. The bright colors of guacamole will “pop” against a black plate. For a grander effect, I am going to take a pastry brush and spread a layer of sour cream on the plate.

I love avocados and prefer them sliced as opposed to being mashed. As a result, I am going to slice and carefully arrange them on top of the layer of sour cream.

Then I will artistically place the chopped tomatoes, red onions, jalapenos and cilantro on the sliced avocado. As you can see, this approach is innovative and is sure to delight your guests. It is these detailed choices that define the creativity of a chef.

Guacamole is popular year-round. The creaminess of the avocados is perfect for the summer months and the spiciness of the jalapenos is great for cold weather.

But if you want to upscale the guacamole for a special occasion, consider adding jumbo lump crabmeat and Old Bay seasoning. These additions will create sophistication and at the same time give the dish an Eastern Shore twist.

Remember, guacamole with jumbo lump crabmeat can be presented as a traditional dip or a deconstructed appetizer. The choice is yours. Enjoy!

Guacamole with Jumbo Lump Crabmeat


4 large avocados, skins and seeds removed

juice of 2 to 3 limes

2 Roma tomatoes, seeded and finely chopped

1 large jalapeno, seeded, and finely chopped

½ small red onion, finely chopped

2 small cloves garlic, minced

2 tablespoons chopped cilantro

½ teaspoon kosher salt

two pinches ground cumin

several pinches Old Bay seasoning

jumbo lump crabmeat according to personal preference

1. In a medium bowl, lightly mash the avocados.

2. Stir in lime juice, tomatoes, jalapenos, onions, garlic, cilantro, salt and cumin.

3. Gently fold in crabmeat and garnish with Old Bay seasoning.

4. Serve with chips, crackers, or crudités.

Secret Ingredient – Improvement. “Where we cannot invent, we may at least improve.”

– Charles Caleb Colton

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