When it comes to food, a garnish is the final touch a chef uses to enhance the presentation of a dish. It might be a sprinkle of chopped parsley for color or a lemon wedge for a tangy splash of flavor. Regardless of what the garnish is, however, clever cooks know it can do more than add flair to the plate. Garnishes can:
- Boost the nutritional value of food if chosen wisely and applied sparingly.
- Infuse new flavors and textures into familiar foods while enriching the visual appeal of dishes.
- Entice children or other picky eaters to sample new foods or sneak in an extra serving of fruits and vegetables.
Cathy Parsons, a professionally trained chef and culinary nutritionist with a focus in food science, recipe development and product development, offers these good-for-you garnish suggestions.
These baby versions of larger leafy greens provide essential vitamins such as C and E, both of which are antioxidants that fight free radicals in your body. These delicate greens, which range from baby radishes to a mesclun mix, can be placed atop any food item as is, or tossed with a light drizzle of homemade dressing for a boost of flavor.
Onions sauteed with herbs can add an aromatic, savory flavor profile to foods. Also, compounds known as polyphenols are present in herbs and are known to be anti-inflammatory agents, beneficial in helping to prevent certain cancers and aid in heart health.
Try this: saute onions with a small amount of olive oil and some finely minced fresh thyme, rosemary or lavender. The herbs help mellow some of the pungent flavor of the onions while sauteing them releases natural sugars. Add herbs toward the end of the sauteing process as they may get bitter if cooked too long.
Delicate in color and flavor, raw scallions are a fantastic garnish, adding color and texture to soups, meats, salads and other entrees. As a member of the lily family, along with onions and garlic, scallions contain allicin, which is known to have anti-bacterial and anti-viral properties. Scallions are also high in vitamins A and C, both of which are antioxidants, and vitamin K, which aids in bone health. They also have higher levels of folic acid and minerals such as calcium, iron and manganese.
Try this: slice them thinly on a bias to create height and dimension, or grill until tender and tie the green portion into a knot for a truly impressive garnish.