New Castle News

February 16, 2012

Lori Brothers: Make your meals visually appealing

Lori Brothers
New Castle News

NEW CASTLE — With Valentine’s Day being this week, I became nostalgic about the “romantic dinners” I would create with the kids.

One that is particularly memorable is the time I decided to have a fondue party. I had, of course, a pot of melted chocolate for dipping strawberries, bananas and caramel squares. We also had a cheese pot for dipping a variety of breads.

The big laugh is that I borrowed the fondue pots from my sister, who uses sterno type containers with lighter fluid. Believe me, I need plug-ins!  

This was unnerving for my high school friend, who was invited to join me and my kids for the romantic event. She witnessed me rushing about frantically with a bag of flour. The sterno had blazed out of control and was boiling the chocolate. Flames were consuming the pot. We laugh now, but at the time it was alarming.

It took half the bag of flour to snuff out the fire. Talk about the heat of passion. However, one of my true passions is plating pretty food. I call it romance because even if I am eating alone, I enjoy the beauty and the color that I have arranged on the plate. With just a few extra touches it turns an ordinary meal into something special. When others enjoy it too, I am delighted.

I would use the wine glasses for the kids and we would drink spritzers, which were cranberry juice mixed with ginger ale. I still grill a tuna steak and slice limes for a garnish. We squeeze the lime over the fish and the presentation is fresh.

When I have time, I like to make any plate of food a piece of art that is pleasing to the eye. Veggies add color. If I am making a salad, I make sure I add shredded carrots for color. I also like the treat of jarred hot (spicy) asparagus or pickled green beans on the salad. Jarred beets also work. Sometimes I buy a bag of radishes. This time of year, we need that color in our salads to cheer us up.

If not in your salad, add more color to your dinner plate with steaming veggies instead of using the canned variety. Canned veggies are higher in sodium and look lifeless on the plate. If you want the convenience of frozen veggies, they also will add color to the plate and have the same nutrients as fresh.

Making carrot curls or tomato roses add color to your the main entree. Just Google, “Food presentation” or “garnishing techniques” for directions. I’m not as good at this kind of detail, but if you have that kind of talent – go for it.

Spices and herbs also enhance the look of what you are plating. Examples you may already use: Paprika sprinkled on deviled eggs or your favorite potato or macaroni salad; chives or parsley on baked potatoes; chopped dill on your salmon. The trick is to compliment the plate with something that enhances the flavor.

Make an edible centerpiece by coating damp grapes with sugar. Arrange them on a special platter. Cranberries or other fruit arranged on a platter or in a large bowl around a lit pillar candle is very simple, yet beautiful.

For dessert, vanilla ice cream is better than chocolate when you are serving to meet the eye. Both color and flavors pop with vanilla. You can use sprinkles, chopped nuts, or drizzled caramel. Chocolate lovers can still enjoy chocolate sauce or hot fudge. If you don’t serve the ice cream decorated, it is always fun to have family or guests create their own.

This is the kind of romance I keep in my life year-round.


Peppered Snapper

with Tomato Mint Salsa

This fresh salsa adds color and makes the perfect complement to snapper (serves 4).

Ingredients for snapper:

Ingredients for tomato mint salsa:


Combine salsa ingredients in a bowl and set aside to let flavors develop. Place snapper on a baking pan coated with pan spray. Spread mustard on filets and sprinkle with pepper. Broil 10 to 12 minutes until snapper is done. Top each filet with salsa, garnish with fresh mint.