You already know I love to garnish, albeit with a heavy and clumsy hand.
But as I step into my second year of eating plant-based, I realized that I never put much thought into beautifying my plates before.
As I embrace the need to taste the rainbow on a daily basis, I am also relishing the opportunity to utilize a wide array of options for toppings. Blame the overzealousness on my amateur status as a food stylist – finesse is developing, slowly but surely.
These 9 ideas are my top favorite ways to amp up the “eat with your eyes” factor, but they’re also pulling double duty.
Not only do these items make the plate prettier, they often bring bonus flavors, textures, and temperatures to the table. When you’re plant-based, these aspects make all the difference when concocting a satisfying meal.
9 Ideas to Beautify Your Plate
I put herbs on almost everything I make. They add a freshness that cannot be beat, and a pop of green that jazzes up even the blandest looking food. Here’s how to properly save them.
This plate was enhanced by baby basil, which I loved for the faintly anise flavor.
My chive blossoms got a lot of mileage this spring, but they’re not the only show in town. The variety of edible flowers out there is mind boggling, and they’re arguably the most beautiful addition to any plate. My other favorites include pansies/violas and squash blossoms.
Have you tried my easy guacamole potato salad?
3. Hot Sauce
This plate has flowers too (tiny yellow ones from a broccoli plant), but as you can see a dash of red does wonders for an otherwise boring looking plate. Not to mention the spicy zing that dash brings!
I love hot sauce, and the one pictured is from Baby Clydesdale in San Diego. They make their sauces in small batches, and have some of the most unique flavors, which are absolutely delicious. I’ll tell you more about them soon!
4. Leave a Little Raw on Top
This is more of a tip than an actual item. In dishes where I incorporate a lot of cooked vegetables (in a sauce, pasta, soup, etc), I have started to leave a tiny raw pile aside.
I noticed that all those cooked veggies can get lost in the final product, so I use the reserved raw bits to sprinkle on top, making it easy to see what’s in there. The uncooked, fresh bits also add a pop of brightness and crunch. Win-win. Pictured: Plant-Based Rainbow Pad Thai.
5. Cabbage Slaw
Red cabbage is one of my secret beautifying weapons. I simply slice a chunk of it nice and thin, toss with salt and vinegar, and voilà – instant slaw*. I don’t know what’s better – the bright pop of purple or the satisfying crunch alongside heavier foods like this tofu scramble and potato hash.
*This works with green cabbage too.
6. Pickled Vegetables
Pickling is another great way to retain the vibrant colors of raw vegetables, while also bringing an element of brininess. I shared one quick pickling method here that doesn’t require canning.
I will often make a relish of sorts from my homemade pickles to use as an instant side dish on any plate (pictured at the top of this one). I simply chop up the pickled mixture and maybe add in some fresh herbs or more raw vegetables to bulk it up.
Whether it’s a quick guacamole or just simple slices, avocados bring an unbeatable creaminess. I make sure any avocado topping gets a squeeze of lime and a sprinkle of salt for even more taste explosion.
It doesn’t get much better than an avocado on top.
Similar to avocados, raw tomatoes can easily be diced up and tossed with salt, lime, vinegar, or herbs to create a quick salsa for topping that also brings a sweet factor. They’re another go-to when I’m in need of a fresh, colorful option.
9. Sprouts + Microgreens
These two bring an edge of optimal nutritiousness, but also a delicate prettiness that can gently enhance dishes that don’t need much help in the way of flavor.
The sprouts on these Seeded Onion Crackers with Cashew Cheese were really just there to look nice. They did a great job.
Anything I missed? Tell me how you pretty your plates!
I look forward to playing more with these elements, and others, to continue eating (and sharing) plates that are just as aesthetically pleasing as they are delicious.