Delish: Art on a Plate

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By: Brianna Bates

When it comes to cooking and entertaining, the possibilities are endless; your menu is a blank canvas just waiting to be inspired. Your art supplies come in all shapes and sizes, textures and colors begging to be molded into beautiful pieces of art. The most ordinary of foods and dishes can be turned into something spectacular with just a few strokes of your spatula or flicks of your knife. A plain cake can turn into a vibrant color wheel that’s a feast for not only your stomach but also for your eyes. A mundane cocktail bar becomes an interactive and personalized activity with just a few simple additions. There are countless ways to spice up and brighten your everyday meal or blasé party, and we’ve got the recipes and tips that will turn you into a culinary artiste. You’ll never look at a recipe the same way again.

Vibrant Vegetable Salad

A fresh salad, although popular for its healthy aspect, is hardly inspiring on the creative front. How many Caesar and garden salads can one person possibly enjoy? Using everyday vegetables that are tasty and colorful will turn your lunch or next potluck dish into a rainbow of tastes without a drop of food coloring.

You will need:

2 cups cooked quinoa

2 cups baby arugula

1 cup chopped kale

1 large carrot peeled and grated

1 orange bell pepper, diced

3 radishes, sliced

½ head of red cabbage, chopped

½ cup sun-dried tomatoes, sliced

¼ cup green olives, chopped

2 ounces crumbled feta cheese

For the dressing:

½ shallot, peeled and chopped

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

juice of 1 lemon

¼ cup white wine vinegar

½ cup olive oil

salt and pepper to taste

Assemble all of the ingredients in a large bowl. Whisk together the dressing and pour over the vegetables. Mix thoroughly. Serve room temperature or chilled.

Rainbow Cake

Cake is probably one of the most basic and essential of desserts. It takes just a few ingredients, and without much inspiration it can be just as boring. But there is also a reason why cakes are so popular year after year and cookbook after cookbook: They’re the blank canvas of the dessert world. The artistic interpretations are endless. Take your ordinary white cake recipe, add a few surprising twists, top it with decadent frosting and you’ve turned your mundane birthday cake into a masterpiece that no one will ever forget.

Tip: Buy egg whites in a carton to save some time separating the eggs. Use neon food coloring for a more vibrant, unique look. 

You will need:

 10 large egg whites

1 ½ cups milk

4 ½ tsp vanilla extract

5 ½ cups cake flour

3 ½ cups sugar

3 tablespoons baking powder

1 ½ teaspoons salt

3 sticks butter, room temperature, cut into cubes

red, yellow, green, and blue food coloring

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. In a large bowl, combine the egg whites, ½ cup milk and vanilla extract. In a separate bowl, mix the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt with an electric mixer until combined. Add the butter and the remaining 1 cup of milk to the flour mixture. Mix until ingredients are just combined. Increase the speed to medium and mix for 1 1/2 minutes. The batter should start to stick to the beaters. Add the milk/egg mixture in 5-6 separate batches, mixing until just combined after each addition.

Separate the batter into six bowls with 1 ½ cups batter in each. Dye each bowl of batter a different color: red, orange, yellow, green, blue, and purple. You can tint the batter as vibrant or pale as you would like.

Next, spray six 8-inch cake pans with cooking spray and then line with parchment paper. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. You’ll probably have to bake in batches. Remove the pans from the oven and let cool for 10 minutes. Remove the cake from the pans, and let cool on a wire rack. Continue the process until all six cakes are done. Once the cakes have cooled, wrap them in plastic wrap and place in the freezer for one hour. They will be much easier to handle when icing.

For the icing:

8 cups powdered sugar, sifted

1 1/4 cups butter, room temperature

1/2 cup milk

2 tsp pure vanilla

Beat the butter and powdered sugar until smooth. Add the vanilla. Slowly drizzle in the milk and beat on high speed until light and fluffy.

To assemble the cake:

Take the layers out of the freezers and unwrap. Place the purple layer on a cake pan. Cover the top with icing, but do not cover sides. Place the blue layer over the icing and continue this process until all layers are placed and tops are iced. Leave the sides un-iced and top with colorful sprinkles.

Cocktail Bar

Mixology, or the science of mixing and creating cocktails, has become extremely popular in the culinary scene with entire bars and restaurants dedicated to serving unique, perfectly incorporated drinks for every occasion and for every palate. While this kind of liberty comes easy at a restaurant, it’s much more hard to come by at a party deterred by a budget and lack of wait staff. Offering only wine and beer might be practical but it’s hardly inspiring. At your next party, let your guest have creative reign and set up an easy-to-assemble cocktail station. Fill small bowls with sweet toppings like strawberries, raspberries, and blueberries, and set pitchers of different juice mixers such as orange, cranberry and apple juice. Don’t forget the savory! For the salty, dirty martini lover, set out fresh olives, and for your Blood Mary-drinking neighbors, set out celery and lots of pepper. The possibilities are endless, and your hassle-free night that is sure to ensue is priceless.

Tip: Print out a few sheets of cocktail suggestions to get your guests’ creative juices flowing. Instead of alcoholic beverages, set up a custom lemonade bar for your next children’s birthday party. 

Strawberry Martini

2 ounces vodka or gin

1 tsp. grenadine

1 tablespoon crush strawberries

Mojito

2 ounces clear rum

3 mint sprigs

1 tablespoons fresh lime juice

1 tablespoon sugar

splash club soda

lime slice, for garnish

Bloody Mary

2 ounces vodka

3 ounces tomato juice

½ ounce lemon juice

dash Worcestershire sauce

dash pepper

celery stalk and lime wedge, for garnish