Friday, September 24, 2010

150. Carrot Garnish, Not Parsley

Butchers usually added a sprig or two of parsley inside the packages ground meat when I was growing up. Most restaurants added pieces of that same greenery to fill in the gaps between food items and my mother often put it to our plates, especially when the dish needed some color.

While the dark green leaves were a happy contrast, we did not particularly like to eat that parsley. My mother insisited that it cleansed the breath so, if the meal featured garlic or raw onions, we might be seen chewing it. Soon enough, however, the green sprigs disappeared from restaurant plates, meat packages and even our home-cooked meals altogether...I am sure that its absence was a bottom-line decision rather than any other reason.

Even though parsley disappeared as the garnish of choice, other foods flourished in that category and became vegetable and fruit art-forms. Gigantic edible flowers and creatively constructed food creatures are often found on the buffet tables at catered affairs and on cruise ships. I do not remember the islands we visited on a trip, but I will never forget the group of minature penguins made out of eggs and black olives on the ship's luncheon table.

Ever intrigued by food design,  I bought a book of Chinese appetizers and garnishes. Many of the elaborate creations were made by true artisans but, a few ideas, like today’s carrot flower, are easy enough for even those with modest skills.

Carrot Flower Garnish

Clean a large carrot. Using a very sharp knife or a mandolin-slicer, cut five paper-thin slices of carrot.

Next, cut halfway through each round from the center out.

Overlap the cut edges to form a cone and carefully,  press a toothpick through the overlapped edges. Push the carrot cone down about ½ inch.

Continue with each of the four remaining slices…adding each cone to the top of the toothpick. Place a pea, a piece of corn or some other contrasting vegetable piece on the end of the toothpick. Soak the garnish in water until ready for use
Alternate vegetables: cucumber, radish, eggplant

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