image of cucumber garnish

Garnishing 101

Featured image for this post © Quinn Anya

image of Swan made from apples

Image dinemag

Garnishes, whether simple or complex, are meant to enhance the visual appeal of a dish. They can be used to accent the color of a dish, provide contrast, or add a festive finishing touch.

When you hear the word “garnish,” maybe you imagine fancy swans fashioned from apples, or intricate little flowers made from tomatoes, and immediately write it off.

Who has time to carve napkin rings out of carrots?

Elaborate garnishes can be amazing and they do have their place, but there are many simple garnishes that are quick and easy enough for everyday use.

A sprinkling of herbs around the plate. A single chive leaning against a steak. A little stack of micro-greens, artfully arranged. Some grated lemon zest. A swirl of cream in the middle of a bowl of tomato soup. These are beautiful and tasty garnishes anyone can use to enhance their dishes.

image of Roast chicken garnished with feta cheese

Crumbled feta brings chicken up a notch.
Image © Joelen Tan

image of Cupcakes garnished with pomegranate seeds

Pomegranate seeds take cupcakes from simple to elegant.
Image © Jessica Barnes

image of Chickpea radish hors d'oeuvres

Watermelon Radish garnish transforms these hors d’oeuvres from boring to beautiful.  Image © VeganYumYum.com

As with plating, there is no “one true way” to garnish. Your creativity is the only limit. However, keep these guidelines in mind:

    • Everything on a plate should be edible, so refrain from garnishing with anything that isn’t. Fake flora, poisonous flowers (some flowers are edible – check before using), inedible rinds or shells, etc. should never be used as garnish. The exception would be things like crab and lobster claws or similar.
    • Use relevant or complementary ingredients and flavors for your garnishes. A completely random garnish that has no relation to the dish will only confuse the diner. Using ingredients from the dish itself is always an excellent choice.
    • Think of the plate like a painting – the food in the center is the art, and the rim of the plate is the frame. Keep the frame clean so the focus is on the art. Strategic placement of herbs or garnishes on the rim may occasionally be appropriate, but in general, you want to keep the rim clean.
    • Consider color, flavor, texture and appearance when selecting a garnish.

I’ll be going into much more detail about garnishing and how to make specific garnishes in future posts, so watch for those soon. Please comment below and tell me about your favorite garnishes, or what you’d like to learn about!

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