Whether you serve deli cold cuts or homemade roast beef or turkey slices, the principles for garnishing apply. Use colors and textures that contrast with the meats, and pay attention to the overall design of the platter. Make sure that the garnishes are eye-catching to make the meats appear even more delectable than they would without extra adornment.
Use one food as a garnish to create an orderly platter that doesn't distract from the meats. This practice works especially well when you serve a large number of people with many platters. Use curly parsley, lettuce leaves, kale leaves, shredded kale or watercress underneath the meats. Arrange the greens so they peek out from the outer edges of the platter, or place them in lines to separate one type of meat from another. Add cherry tomatoes or olives at intervals on top of the greens for color.
Dry garnishes thoroughly after you wash them, so the meats don't end up waterlogged from residual water. Wash the garnishes the day before the party, adding a tablespoon of lemon juice to the wash water to help preserve the veggies. Then blot the vegetables gently with paper towels, and refrigerate them overnight wrapped in dry paper towels and placed in a plastic bag.
Garnishes Here and There
Arrange garnishes randomly over the top of the meats to give the platter a more casual feel. If you like, start with a centerpiece, such as a carved orange or tomato resembling a flower. Then scatter other tasty foods, such as:
- Small chili or sweet peppers
- Olives or cheese cubes with toothpicks
- Herbs, such as basil, cilantro or flat-leafed parsley
- Cherry tomatoes, green onions or radishes with their tops still attached
- Edible flowers, such as chive blossoms or nasturtiums
To give your platter a whimsical appeal, use carved radish roses, cucumber fans and carrot or celery curls as garnishes. The time and effort to make special garnishes elevate the appeal of the platter.
Garnishes to Nibble
All garnishes are edible, but some are more appetizing than others. Your guests probably won't pick up the lettuce leaves you've lined the plate with, but they may nibble on more flavorful garnishes:
- Apple slices brushed with lemon juice to keep them from turning brown
- Crunchy, fried leeks or onions
- Marinated mushrooms
- Pickle spears or bell pepper rings