My husband's grandmother may have been on to something. She would take my husband when he was a boy to fine dining restaurants to teach him how to be a gentleman and to allow him to practice his table manners. (Check and check as he is a total gentlemen and his manners are impeccable.) But, much to my husband's dismay, he noted grandma would clean her plate. And, I mean clean her
plate . . . completely . . . garnish and all. Down the hatch. That big parcel of parsley on the side? Gone. The orange slice swirled to look pretty? Consumed. My husband, at the time, was, well -- horrified! After all, isn't it ruuuuude to clean your plate and eat the garnish?? Isn't it an insult to the chef that he did not provide enough food? Apparently, grandma did not abide to that particular directive and considered everything on the plate was fair game. And, maybe she was right.
A Pretty Punch
Those garnishes used to embellish your dish or drink not only provide added or contrasting flavor, but most of them are packed with all kinds of good things - vitamins, antioxidants, even fiber. So isn't it great that we can not only make our dishes look more appetizing and taste better with our garnish, but it punches up the nutrients, too! That is a lot of good for a sprinkle of this over here, a curl of that over there, and a drizzle of this on top!
Garnishes can certainly transform a dish. And there are so many ways to do it. Here is a great piece on how garnishes add flavor to our food.
The list of what and how to garnish is only limited by your imagination, but here are some of the more common flavorful and healthy garnishes as well as some more interesting choices to consider when finishing your dishes:
- This most common garnish, parsley, should not be underestimated. It is high in antioxidants, vitamins A and C, and the chemical apigenin, which may help inhibit the growth of cancer cells. It also has heart-healthy effects like reducing high blood pressure. Many consider it a great detoxifier. This can be sprinkled on its own to add color and brightness to a dish, but it can also be combined with other garnishes, too.
- Chives contain a natural source of sulfur which fights off damaging free radical cells. Chives also contain allicin, which is a chemical that helps improve the circulatory system and helps prevent and fight off infections in the body. Chives also contain vitamins such as C and A as well as several minerals like calcium, iron, potassium, and folic acid. The mild onion flavor adds a familiar hint to most dishes and combines well with other herbs, too.
- Citrus peels contain as much as five times or more vitamins than the juice itself. Vitamin C and A, beta carotene, folate, calcium, magnesium, and potassium are all abundant. Reach for that zester and shred some bright color and flavor on your dishes. Use organic citrus, if possible, though.
- The aroma of mint alone is reason to use it as a garnish. It can go savory or sweet and is often used in many Indian and Middle Eastern cuisines. It is a great aide to digestion and stomach ailments as well as relieve coughs and congestion.
- What drama black sesame seeds add to a presentation. The black little dots sprinkled on a dark colored food like sweet potatoes are beautiful. It is a great way to get those needed minerals like calcium, magnesium, zinc and copper.
- Crunchy, toasted pumpkin seeds are a complement to winter squash and sweet potatoes. They are full of a great range of antioxidants and contain a wide variety of forms of vitamin E.
- Crush your favorite toasted nuts to add great texture to your dish. Nuts are rich in arginine, which helps blood vessels to relax - great for your cardiovascular system. Nuts are also considered a great brain food helping to prevent cognitive decline as we age.
- A drizzle of good quality olive oil is both delicious and elegant. Click here for the many benefits of olives and the oil that are abundant. Minced black or kalamata olives add a strong pop to a dish. They add a lot of flavor as is but you could also add minced garlic, parsley or lemon for even more intensity. Diced olives could be nice with a mllder vegetable like cauliflower.
- Swirl a chiffonade of fresh basil, sage, parsley, or rosemary with olive oil or plain organic yogurt. Click over here to a post that contains information on how to learn the technique to make chiffonade like a pro.
- Get your mandoline or one of the many other vegetable peelers that create beautiful shapes to finely shave or shred garnishes from fruits and vegetables. Cucumbers, carrots, hot or sweet bell peppers, fennel, apples - the possibilities are endless.
- Flowers are stunning on a plate! There are plenty that are edible and plenty that are not! Here is lots of information on flowers you can eat and why you would want to.
- Top entrees and soups with gremolata, an Italian garnish of minced herbs and citrus. The traditional one consists of chopped parsley, garlic and lemon peel. But some other combinations you could try are: lime peel, cilantro, and garlic on fish; or oregano, orange peel, and chive for Mexican dishes; or even lemon peel, basil, and shallot to dress a zucchini salad
Tell me, do you eat the garnish? If so, which is your favorite?
photo credit: <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/xalamay/3535131940/">xalamay</a> via <a href="http://photopin.com">photopin</a> <a href="http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/">cc</a>