Culinary Arts: Edible Art
culinary arts for American recipes and techniques
Welcome to my online cooking school for American recipes and cooking techniques! If you've been attending my online cooking classes, you've been cooking up a storm. Today, we're going to focus on actual culinary ARTS. You'll see what I mean!
I love hosting parties. These range from casual get-togethers to more formal parties with perhaps hundreds of guests. I’m a good cook, and I’m also an artist. I’m not, however, one to follow intricate instructions. I’m more the type to just plow into something new and find my own way of doing it. That’s how I got started adding unique, attractive dishes to my parties.
Some of the things I make:
Fish-shaped crab spread: This is my most elaborate and impressive example of food art. First, I make a simple crab spread with cream cheese, refrigerated crab meat, and spices. I then shape the mixture into a fish, complete with dorsal fin. I add a stuffed olive slice for the eye, and strips of red pepper for the gills and the mouth. I cut thin strips of green onion tops to embellish the tail and dorsal fin. Next, I do the scales. For them, I use small peeled and deveined shrimp with the tails removed. Since they’re semi-circular in shape, they make perfect scales. Just overlap them on the fish the way real scales would appear. I start placing the scales behind the gills and continue to the tail. Last of all, I cut out pectoral fins from the red bell pepper, and I’m done. It always amuses me when I make this – it’s so pretty that guests never want to “mess it up” by eating it! I always have to take the first serving.
Cheese spread: Mix together cream cheese, grated Swiss, real bacon bits, and your favorite spices and/or herbs. You can shape this into anything. For Christmas, I usually do a Christmas tree and sprinkle it with parsley leaves for the greenery. Then I decorate the tree with small circles I’ve punched out from red bell peppers. This can also be shaped into a wedding bell for a wedding reception, or tinted orange and shaped into a pumpkin for a fall or Halloween party.
Chocolate-mint wreath cake: This is another great for a Christmas party. Mix up a dark chocolate cake mix and bake it in a shallow ring pan. Mix together white vanilla frosting, green food coloring, and a few drops of peppermint extract. Place the frosting in a bag with a leaf tip and pipe the leaves onto the cooled cake, overlapping them. This is really easy. Anyone can make leaves! You might want to practice a few on some waxed paper before you start on the cake. When you’ve covered the cake with leaves, add a few small cinnamon candies for the holly berries.
Cheddar ring wreath: Mix together cream cheese, grated sharp cheddar, and finely chopped pecans and form into a ring. Top the ring with fresh basil or parsley leaves and fill the center of the ring with raspberry jam. The cheese and jam go wonderfully together!
Cream cheese pinecones: This is super simple and really cute! Add your favorite ground spices to softened cream cheese. I use one envelope of dry ranch dressing mix to two eight-ounce blocks of cream cheese. Shape the mixture into smooth egg shapes. Then, stick sliced almonds – sharp ends first – into the egg-shaped balls. Place them at a slant, doing one row at a time. Don’t do the bottom. These look amazingly like pine cones! You can make darker ones using the whole almonds, too.
Palm trees: For a luau or other summer party, make palm trees from fresh carrots and green bell peppers. Use the carrot for the trunk, cutting some small diagonal slits in the edges to give it more texture. To make the top, place a green bell pepper upside down, and slice off the bottom (which is actually the top now – the part with the stem). Now make upside-down triangle cuts into the pepper to make it look like palm fronds. Place the pepper on top of the carrot trunk.
Melon basket: Another favorite for spring and summer parties is a melon basket fruit salad. Cut a watermelon in half and scoop out all the meat. Using a sharp knife, make inverted V shapes into the rim, all the way around. Make balls from the melon flesh with a melon baller and return them to the melon basket, along with strawberries, blueberries, and pineapple chunks. To make an even prettier basket, leave a 2-2 ½ -inch strip in the center for a handle.
Snowman cookie pizza: I use refrigerated sugar cookie dough for this. You’ll probably need two rolls for a snowman. Form the dough into three balls of three different sizes – small, medium, and large. Save a little extra to make a hat. Now, roll the dough thin – about ¼ inch. Roll out a thin strip for the hat’s base and a rectangle for the hat. Place the cookies on a greased non-stick cookie sheet and bake according to package directions. When the cookies are completely cool, assemble your snowman. You’ll need to slice off the top part of the head so the hat will fit. Using white cream cheese or vanilla icing, ice the snowman. Use colored icing or bits of gumdrops or other candies to make eyes, nose, mouth, and buttons. Or thicken some of the icing by adding powdered sugar to in and tint it orange to make a little carrot nose. Ice the hat with black icing or paint it with melted chocolate. Make a red “scarf” out of a flattened Twizzler candy. The cookies, of course, can be made into any shapes you choose, and the dough and icing can be tinted any color. My daughter just made one of these for a breast cancer luncheon. She made a large round cookie, iced it with light pink cream cheese frosting, and make the breast cancer ribbon shape out of thinly sliced strawberries.
Gourd bowls: Hollow out a large squash, like a Hubbard, or clean out a pumpkin. Serve vegetables or soup in them. This makes a nice dish for Thanksgiving or for a fall or Halloween dinner.
Pepper containers: Use red, yellow, and orange bell peppers on your fall, Halloween, or Thanksgiving table to add color and originality. Just slice the top off washed peppers and scoop out the inside. They can hold dip, mayonnaise, mustard, barbecue sauce, celery sticks, carrot sticks – whatever you think up!
Calla lily sandwiches: These are so elegant looking! Cut fat teardrop shapes out of white sandwich bread. Roll each one thin with a rolling pin. Spread with a thin layer of seasoned cream cheese. Fold in the bottom two edges to form the flower, using a dab of cream cheese to secure the bread edges together. Use a thin slice of green onion top for the stamen, and use a slice of almond for the little bud. These really look like calla lilies, and they’re great for wedding receptions, teas, luncheons, or practically any party! Some people make these from cutting round shapes from the bread slices. They work okay, but they’re not quite as pretty. They are easier, though.
Edible flowers: It's fairly easy to make flowers from onions because the different layers look somewhat like flowers, naturally. Just start near the base of the onion, making pointed petals. Open the "petals" up by slightly pressing on them. You can also make tulips from red bell peppers and chrysanthemums and other designs from oranges and orange peels.
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