The Art of Food Plating

I am a so so cook but there is nothing more appealing to me than a well composed plate of food. This post is dedicated to the many ways well known cooks present a dish. I’d leave the cooking technique to other’s posts. First, we get to feast with our eyes and then surrender ourselves to our visual senses. These are dishes that have me at hello. With my tendency to make list and sort things to categories, I will try to do the same with this art.

The Zen composition.



d0f54c549c839ffe674ce18d43e21c3cBrushstrokes of sauce, spare use of colors in food.

The tower – piling ingredients, one on top of another.







fc4dc604d652a567e99ccebd105cd72bAlways top the tower off with something eye catching!

Some food just want to be the lone island.





The spring garden- gather a concoction of greens and bright colors.










Food Trinity. The foodman always rings thrice.






f4a0bc9e6d60f746f7564f59719db3deTrios are never de trop. The first bite surprises, the second confirms and the third is savored.

Slices– They stack, they layer, they fan out.










965ba004b2744d4003b9ca825504a324Sliced them thin, mix them  up, roll them up, pile them on…

Triffle style presentation. Use  nicely shaped glassware and voila.


Hangar-7; Smart Food; Smart Drink





Pure geometric shapes serve well as focal points. Cubes, egg shapes, cylinders, spheres…












Parallel lines – A nice graphic trick.





Swirls, twigs, tuiles, curls, foam and spun sugar. This is how to pop a top.









Artful dishware will always do the trick.18f8b7a2d5a88316ab095c54c38620a6





Are we hungry yet? Don’t bother trying these at home…






4cbfa1a6a39c299f33a57e60e99586edSometimes, a limited palette of colors can do more for the eyes.

And finally, my version of heaven…

2a63b77da8da8bdfb8699d830b2bc3a3Foie gras Cotton Candy.  Sigh sigh sigh…

Click on photos for source


Cake Architecture

Just because it’s been a while since I’ve come across “June  Wedding” in my vocabulary, it doesn’t mean June cakes never make an appearance in my infallibly constant rush for sugary confections.

Cake design goes by the some of the same concepts we see in interiors and architecture. It’s quite tantalizing to see how beautiful a cake can be given its restraints in having to rely on tier construction, not having a limitless array of shapes to play with and accepting that cake ornaments are made from a handful of methods only.  The motifs for cakes are however endless. They could be floral, geometrical or take on shapes of various objects such as hats, teacups, boxes and anything that is appropriate to the occasion for which one needs a cake.

I intend this post to be just eye candy and with very little analysis. So here are some of the most amazing cakes…

Hat cake.

Chocolate curl cake.

Lattice cakes.

Ombre’ cakes.

Charlotte cakes.

Striped cakes.

Harlequin cakes

Ribbon cakes.

Filigree cakes.

Of course, the obligatory floral cakes.

Branch cakes.

Ruffle cakes.

Gift box cakes.

Mini cakes.

Any cake worth its sugar should be properly presented by being on a cake table or by having a nice backdrop for it.

A nice cake stand doesn’t hurt.

There is that one of a kind dresser used for cake table.

There is the formal cake table

The rustic cake tables

The family of cakes table.

When combined with dessert, the cake/dessert table offers a chance for beautiful compositions.

My favorite cake/dessert table in a rustic setting.

And last but not least, the kind of no calorie cake table that lasts forever.  I wouldn’t even mind if it goes into my bedroom…

Photo sources: clink on images for links to sources.

Cupcakes Galore

I think the first time I saw a tray of cupcakes was at my son’s kindergarten class.  One of the students’ mom made cupcakes for her son’s birthday.  First, I must explain that I didn’t go to kindergarten in the States.  My mom didn’t bake and cupcakes were a foreign idea to me.  I remember thinking what a marvelous invention they were – mini cakes so you won’t waste time with cutting the cake, dealing with paper plates or making sure the portions are somewhat equal.

Now, we have Cupcake Wars on TV.  We see cupcakes at weddings, in food magazines and entire bakeries dedicated to the art of making cupcakes.  Cupcakes got themselves to a couture status.  How is it that they were able to take off in such wide array of directions and incarnations?  How are they different than doughnuts?  When doughnuts are expected to come in the few standard flavors, glazes, and fillings, cupcakes comes in a multitude of colors, cups, fillings, flavors and toppings. Doughnuts have not transcended being breakfast treats while cupcakes, so versatile and presentable, get served as desserts, tea time sweets, and seasonal treats.

Being cute is inherent in the concept of cupcakes. What’s cuter than cartoonish animal decorations? We find owls, chickens, bunnies and puppies among the most popular guaranteeing the brightest smile out of even the grumpiest of adults.

Flowers are natural decorations among cupcakes due for wedding celebrations, engagement parties, and valentine sweets.

Sometimes, it’s the cupcake liner that deserves the attention. The choices are endless.

Cupcakes in disguise are exercises in craftsmanship and imagination.

When presented in a grouping or a stand, cupcakes speak louder in sum given a chance for composition, theme exploration and story telling.

This group of cupcakes reminds me of my classmates.  It always amazes me how each of them could be such a unique individual and yet when we gather in one place, the blast of energy generated from our constant chit chat, non stop laugh and banter would prove sprightlier than the sum of our parts.

Simplicity has its strength. Let the flavor speak for itself. You might be surprised at how loudly it tastes.

When all is said and done, the cupcake that steals my heart is the one especially made for me.

Happy Mother’s Day to all mothers who have tried their hands at cupcakes and to all those who can’t bake but manage to treat their children with the sweetest of all treats – the knowledge that their children are the cherries in their bowl, the apple of their eyes and the tops of their favorite cupcakes!

Me and my Pavlova

Christmas for me had turned into an exciting exercise of food planning.  Once I got the gifts figured out for all my loved ones, I set my mind into making something new, something good and something that brings a smile onto everyone’s face.  This year, I decided to tackle the Pavlova.

I browsed through the internet and found a few deliciously looking recipes.   The site  and Donna Hay’s recipes caught my eyes.

I went through both recipes, picking tips and proportions to come up with my own. I preferred less thickness in the marshmallow center of the meringue shell and also less sugar. I also thought that the sweetness of the meringue should be counterbalanced with something really tart, thus came the cranberry syrup. I also saw that some recipes use passion fruit to add tartness. For Chrismas, I opted for kiwi and raspberries for color.

Carolyn’s Pavlova

5 Egg whites, beaten till stiff peaks

3/4 cup of super fine sugar

2 Tablespoons of corn starch

2 teaspoons of white vinegar

a pinch of salt

Cranberry frozen concentrated juice

Kiwi, raspberries and blackberries

-Preheat oven to 350F.

-Beat the egg whites till stiff peaks. Gradually beat in sugar, one tablespoon at a time. Rub the egg whites between your fingers to feel if the sugar has completely dissolved.

-Whisk in the cornstarch, salt and vinegar.

-On a parchment with a 9″ circle drawn on the back side, construct the shell. Make a slightly depressed center. Pipe any kind of decorative border around the perimeter.

-Turn the oven down to 250F.  Bake for 1 hour and 20 minutes.

-Cool the cake in the oven. Do not remove until completely cool otherwise the shell will crack.

-Reduce the cranberry juice till the sauce thickens into a syrup.

-Before serving, garnish the shell with fruits, top with syrup and voila!

On a second trial,I added creme patissiere in the meringue well, arranged  kiwi and mandarin oranges on top and had good reception as well. I guess I can’t go wrong with this wonder.  Next, I will add flavoring such as peppermint to the meringue shell and garnish with chocolate… The choices are endless with this dessert. Stay tuned.

Persimmon Savory Tart

I woke up this morning and saw clear sky, little clouds and a promising Sunday with little to do according to my datebook.  This is the day I saved to allow myself some laziness and self pampering  after that big feast yesterday when I had my family over for Thanksgiving lunch.

The body is a pure design wonder.  I ate so much yesterday and still managed to feel a slow hunger that gnawed at me this morning.  I scavenged and foraged my refrigerator and decided to skimp over the leftovers.  Someone had brought over a bunch of very large persimmons that were begging to be mauled.  I took a look at what other items I didn’t use yesterday and found some mushroom, my favorite cheese, a brand new package of peppered bacon and thought why not make a persimmon savory tart?  The persimmons had just the right intense orange color for fall.  A savory tart would start my day with a proper brunch.

Persimmon Savory Tart

3/4 of a Fuyu persimmon – sliced

Fromager D’ Affinois cheese

A handful of mushroom – lightly sauteed in butter

A handful of artichoke hearts

Puff pastry sheet – thawed

1 egg yolk

2 slices of Peppered bacon – cooked and chopped

Preheat the oven at 400 F.  Lay the puff pastry sheet out, cut 1/2″ strips and make a border by laying the strips at the outer edge of the pastry sheet.  Prick the middle of the sheet with a fork. Bake for 20 minutes or until golden. Remove pastry from oven.

Dice enough cheese and mix with egg yolk to make a cup of cheese mixture.

Arrange the persimmon slices, artichoke hearts, and mushrooms on the baked pastry.  Spoon the egg and cheese mixture over the top.  Sprinkle bacon on top.

Bake in the oven for another 10 minutes till the cheese is completely melted.  Serve with salad.

The sweetness of the persimmon balanced well with the cheese.  The saltiness of the bacon was just right.  My Sunday just started on a savory note.  My blog awaited…

Peachy Goodness

Now that peaches are in season, I frantically look for a peach recipe that would send me to peach heaven.

I went on line to browse through peach desserts and was overblown by the variety of things you can make with peaches.  Some recipes are easier to make than others but the results look dreamy and yummy.

Peach mousse cake.

Peach crepes.

Peach sorbet.

Grilled peaches with vanilla ice cream.

Peach collins.

Peaches and cream meringue cake.

Then I thought about making a peach tarte tatin. The thought of having the juiciness of peach go against the crunchiness of a puff pastry is quite tantalizing. I set out to come up with my kind of tarte tatin just as the perfect peaches are everywhere at the local farmers’ market.

Green Tea Peach Tarte Tatin

2/3 cup sugar

3 Tbsp water

1 tsp green tea powder

2 tsp light corn syrup

2 Tbsp unsalted butter, cubed

4 medium peach, quartered, pitted

1 sheet frozen puff pastry, thawed

Ice cream

-Preheat oven 375 degrees.

-Combine sugar, water, corn syrup, green tea powder in a small non stick saucepan and stir over medium heat till syrup thickens into a dark green color. Pour syrup onto a baking dish.

-sprinkler butter cubes onto the corn syrup. Arrange peach, skin down on top of syrup and butter. Cover entire dish with peaches.

-Bake in oven for 30 minutes. Remove syrup from dish and cook in saucepan until thickens again. Pour back syrup onto peach which remain on the baking dish.

-roll out puff pastry, cut a  round circle to fit the dish. Poke holes in the pastry round using a fork.  Arrange a 1/2″ strip of puff pastry around the edge of the baking dish on top of the peaches. This would give you a thicker edge of pastry when done.  Cover the entire dish with the pastry round.

-Bake for 35 minutes or until the puff pastry is puffed and golden. Let tarte stand at room temperature for 5 minutes. Run knife edge around the edge to loosen pastry. Invert tarte onto a large plate.

-Serve right away with ice cream or creme anglaise.

Hope your tarte comes out as heavenly as mine. The green tea powder really did a good job deepening the caramel taste and served well to counterbalance the tartness of the baked  peaches.  Now, what other “peaching” goodness can I think of to celebrate my birthday…

My Day at the Farmers’ Market

If there ever was a day that I’d feel sluggish, I would lug myself to the local farmers’ market and find myself reinvigorated by the gifts abounded from Mother Earth. Now, there was a place where people were for the most part happy – happy to have found the perfect zucchini blossoms for fritters or happy to soak in the sun while savoring lunch on a slow Friday. The entire crowd seemed to be in slow motion because one didn’t just hop in and out of a farmers’ market. One slathered around. This was no small titter. This was an affair to plan ahead – walking shoes and tote bag in hand are the uniform of the day. Also, one should always plan to come back with surprise and unexpected finds which would later culminate into the highlight of the day in the forms of a spur of the moment dessert or a test recipe.

Any day of the year, I would find flowers that I would never have gotten from my own garden, not in a million years. I especially like the mixed bouquets for their intense play of colors. There are also those bunches of lime green Irish bells and deep purple delphiniums – the kinds that you would want interspersed in whatever floral arrangements you come up with, for they are as sure a success as any Pucci prints.

I found an array of sweet potatoes and yams – Okinawan yams, purple yams, Jewel sweet potatoes. I settled on a bag of  purple yams which I later microwaved for 4 minutes and gobbled up with dollops of Spring Hill Organic Cultured Butter. Vitamin A versus organic cholesterol – Yammy!

At another stall, I found fresh peas and Chinese kale. I have already been dreaming of spring pea soup and sauteed greens. I couldn’t decide whether to rework an old recipe for pea flan or spring up something totally new. Then I thought of that absurd  Princess and her Pea story –  Mr. Hans Christian Andersen must have been smoking pea leaves when he thought anybody, princess or not, could feel a pea beneath twenty mattresses. Anyway, anything green would do for me – that color of lush grass and new sprouts that plants show off after a harsh winter.

In a moment of grandiose imitation of top chefs, I decided to make up a pea souffle recipe. Here is my attempt:

Pea  Souffle

  • 1/2 cup of fresh peas
  • 1/2 cup of milk
  • 1 Tbsp of flour
  • 1/2 cup of shredded Fontina cheese
  • one egg yolk and two egg whites
  • minced chilies, salt, pepper, sugar to taste
  • 3 small ramekins buttered and coated with parmesan cheese

Boil fresh peas until cooked, set aside. Preheat oven 400 F. Cook flour and milk till smooth and sauce thickened. Add peas, chilies, and salt, pepper and sugar to taste. Blend entire mixture in blender till smooth. Return mixture to saucepan. Add Fontina cheese to mixture, cook till cheese is melted, set aside. Add egg yolk to mixture. Beat egg whites till soft peaks. Fold in mixture carefully. Pour mixture into ramekins and put in oven at 400 F for 20 minutes.

Serve with salads, a dab of balsamic vinaigrette and anything that you fancy. Voila!

So, today I came home with bags of produce and continued dreaming of becoming a Martha Stewart/Diva. Wow, how bountiful could Earth be without worms like us who dream of becoming butterflies?