Welcome to part four in Behind the Scenes, where I talk about the photography portion of this blog (and maybe other things, if you request it or if I feel inspired). On the agenda today: garnishes.
If you’re into food photography the way I am, this is actually a scintillating subject. If you aren’t, I apologize in advance. Feel free to come over later for some consolation cookies.
So. When it comes to photographing a dish, garnishes are super important. It might taste amazing, but that’s only the first step. The taste has to translate in the image or I can’t (read: won’t) post it. And garnishes help a lot with the translation.
One of the most common garnishes? Fresh herbs.
When I look at that photo of red lentil & sweet potato soup, my eye goes to the center of the bowl first — right to the parsley and sweet potato. And that’s where I want your eyes to go, too.
Here’s another one.
Without those pretty little mint leaves in the middle, this soup is horribly ugly. I mean, there’s a reason I jazzed it up with a lime green bowl and that bright fabric. Look past those things, and you realize that the soup itself is essentially a bowl of white stuff. It has some cool flavors and everything. It just isn’t pretty.
Speaking of a bowl of white stuff…
Isn’t it great what a minuscule amount of sliced scallion will do for a dish of tzatziki? (It’s also great what a spoonful of tzatziki will do for a latke. You could eat latkes plain, of course, but seriously — add some tzatziki next time. You won’t look back.)
And if you reaaaaaally don’t want to spend the extra few minutes turning sour cream into tzatziki, regular sour cream is also acceptable. In case you were wondering.
One more thing, and then I promise I’ll stop talking about fresh herbs: I feel like it goes without saying, but…what makes fresh herbs an awesome garnish choice is that they’re fresh.
Imagine how much better this photo would have been if I had used fresh oregano on the roasted tomato sauce. Yeah. A lot better. (Did I have fresh oregano on hand? Clearly not. Does my makolet typically stock fresh oregano? Even more clearly not.)
Another popular garnish choice is the ever-present lemon wedge. You see it in drinks all the time, right? But I liked how it looked in this
bowl cup of pasta. And since the recipe uses fresh lemon juice, it totally worked.
When it comes to sweet things, one of my favorite garnishes is whipped cream and chocolate shavings. It does involve a bit of work, since I’ve yet to see whipped cream sold in spray cans here. When I want just a bit for decoration, I whip up the liquid version in my KitchenAid (in the past, I would spend a good five minutes doing this with a hand mixer).
Fortunately, making chocolate shavings slash chocolate curls isn’t a big deal. You just “peel” a bar of chocolate with a regular veggie peeler, and you’re pretty much guaranteed a beauty queen of a dessert.
Isn’t this coffee granita beautiful? I thought so, too.
Finally, never underestimate the power of maple syrup on a stack of pancakes.
Specifically, never underestimate the value of your husband pouring endless amounts of maple over said pancakes while you try to capture the golden drizzle at just the right angle.
Yeah, I paid him in pancakes.