Festive Food Garnishes (Savory)

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Cranberry wreath garnishWhile it would be great to have serving dishes for all the different holidays most of us just don't have the space to store dishes that we would only be using once a year and cost could get out of hand. 

How do you spruce up your everyday serving dishes so that they seem more special during the holidays? 

Do as the large hotels and fine restaurants do and use garnishes on your serving ware. We've come a long way since the days were a few sprigs of parsley were suppose to add some style to a dish. While there are food experts out there that specialize in plate displays there are many simple and easy garnishes that you can do that will add impact to your table. 

With a simple knife and a bit of time you can create some wonderful garnishes for your holiday table.

The first rule of garnishing is that nothing should be set out that can not be eaten. It might not taste that great but it means that if your Uncle Henry absentmindedly eats the garnish it's not going to send him to the hospital. Never put garnishes on the tray that have hidden toothpicks in them for the same reason, if you can't see the toothpick and it gets accidentally eaten then the end results can be quite nasty.

If you are making up garnishes for a buffet table you can be more creative but if it is to decorate a platter that will be handed around then keep the garnish low and simple so it won't topple over and if it does get damaged it will be easy to repair.

Ideally what ever garnishes you are adding can be made in advance and just place on the tray when needed, there are so many other things that you have on your mind when you are entertaining if you leave the garnishing to the last minute it probably won't get done.

If you are getting platters of cold cuts made up at the local deli, ask them if they will use your serving dishes instead of the standard ugly black plastic or aluminum ones. It will look much better and once you add your garnishes the presentation will look superb.

You don't need a lot of garnish on a tray, think of it as the bow on a gift not the wrapping paper. If you have several trays out on a table it will look more pulled together if they all have a similar garnish on them or if part of the garnish appears on each tray.

Festive food garnishes with greens
This very festive garnish is fast and easy. Here I used endive as the green but any curly lettuce would do as well. Pomegranate seeds are like small jewels and the presentation of this mimics holly. (Holly is poisonous and should never be placed any where near food). You could do this on only one side of the platter or on either end.

Festive food garnishes with radish
I gently cleaned the radishes with a damp paper towel and cut them in half with the tip removed. I cut a small notch in the top for a small piece of parsley to fit in behind it. On the top radish I cut a small design using a paring knife. For the bands I cut two parallel lines and then went back and gently cut one on an angle to remove the skin. The cross was made by cutting two wedges.The skin on a radish is very thin and it can be very difficult to cut a sharp design. I thought that these radishes resembled Christmas tree ornaments by their shape.

Festive food garnishes with cucumber
A cucumber flower is a very satisfying garnish to make as it takes very little time but looks complicated. I only put one here but you could have three of the grouped together to have more of an effect.

cucumber garnish
To make these you need an English Cucumber and a paring knife and a peeler. Peel a thin slice of the cucumber making sure that you get the skin on one side so you sill have a green edge. On the green edge cut a fringe making sure you don't cut through the slice. Staring from one end roll up the peel and set it so the fringe is on top. Fluff out the fringe a bit to make it look like a flower. 

Festive food garnishes with radish
Once again I have used radishes but this time to make more of a geometric design. If you were to place the pointy narrow ends of two of them together they would look like a bow. You can also do this design using apples but make sure that the colour on the apple is the same on both sides.

radish garnish
Cut the radish in half. On the top cut out a small wedge with a paring knife and remove the wedge. Right behind this wedge cut on either side of it so you cut out another wedge. Remove this as well. Cut behind this wedge so you will have two sections. You will now reassemble the radish with the wedges placed in the same order they were cut but pulled out slightly so you see the white flesh of the radish. If you are going to do this with apples make sure you dip the apple slices in lemon so they will not brown.

Cranberry wreath garnish
For our final garnish I use the very seasonal cranberry. From a bag of fresh cranberries rinse them and sort them in three sizes, large, medium and small. From the large cranberries pick out ones that have the same colour and size. Chose enough to go half way around your platter. Cut these in half length wise and place around the rim of your platter. Choosing the medium size cranberries make another ring above the first (you don't have to cut the medium ones unless you prefer to), you might find that you will have to use some small cranberries to fill in spaces. For the bow on top I just cut the roots off two green onions and cut a three inch length from both. With a paring knife I sliced the green onions length wise keeping the ends intact. I cut a small piece and sliced it to make a band that covered the two green onions where they meet. This is a very strong presentation but you want to put something in the middle that won't detract from the colour and that you can remove with a fork so you will not jostle the cranberries.

All of these garnishes are easy to make but will make your holiday platters look fabulous.

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Festive food garnishes sweet

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Copyright Ingrid Talpak 2009

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