Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Food as Centerpiece

In a Pinch, Just Make it Beautiful! 

Salad as centerpiece!

After spending an absolutely pristine, picture-perfect Saturday at the beach, boogie boarding to soft rolling waves under clear blue skies, we enthusiastically welcomed 6 guests for dinner -- who, pleasantly and surprisingly, brought 6 more!!!  Dinner parties with multiplying guests are not unusual for us, especially at our less formal house by the sea. We almost always cook in excess --  but on this occasion, we were reasonably concerned. 

Umm... not likely to be enough home-made ravioli:

So what do we do?  Put out an immediate FHB alert!!! (family holds back)

Seriously, we just get to work molding what we have into beautiful (and bountiful) food art!!

Aside from making sure there is enough food, it is imperative that the food is presented well, that it's an appetizing spread. There is a saying with market vendors that "unseen is unsold."  This expression aptly applies here...

...first, we take everything out of the refrigerator and lay it out on the counter.  Hidden food treasures are sure to be lurking in the recesses.  Crudites with a yogurt or humus dip can entertain the troops and work as a pleasing centerpiece. It's a win win. 

We look for items that can be quickly made into Bruschetta -- grilled bread that is drizzled with olive oil,  and then a simple, fresh ingredient is spooned on top -- tomatoes, garlic, anchovy, olive paste, beans, etc. It's quick, easy, hearty and of course, pretty!  

Grilled bread plus tomatoes, olive oil, red onion and garlic equals:


I treasure my varied collection of plates aquired from all over the world.  But, often the best way to present colorful food is to lay it out in simple white dishes. This encourages the food to shine.   

While I relish making pies with my own dough, I do not often have enough time, especially in the summer.  So as soon as I arrive home with a store bought pie, I transfer it into one of my French pie ceramics.  I do this by simply turning the pie up-side-down onto a plate, removing the aluminum tin, then placing the pie plate on top and turning the pie back over into the ceramic. 

Not only does the pie look far more appetizing, it also does not produce cringing, scrunching, metal-tearing sounds when cutting. Plus, the dough will not take on a metallic flavor when re-heating.  

A simple wooden bowl of tomatoes looks irresistible if placed in just the right spot (and off topic -- those vibrant dried straw flowers from the farmers market will last for months).

Even a simple grilled cheese sandwich can appear succulent if beautifully plated. 

For this dinner party, I was running low on cheese. But pairing a simple round brie with fruit (champagne grapes and strawberries) is undeniably appealing.  

Placing appertizer plates around the house can liven up any corner.  In this case, I put the cheese plate on a large round table usually stacked with books and collectibles. 

Fruit makes every space look appealing.  Even next to the sink, this bowl of lemons along with some dried spaghetti brightens up a fairly drab space. 

Don't be afraid to decorate a plate with your ingredients.  With this stacked Vietnamese dish, we simply dotted the plate with Sriracha sauce. Guests couldn't believe it! 

For more ideas, check out the following links:

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