The intense, exotic flavors of Indian cuisine beckon me back to my favorite Indian restaurants again and again. Chicken tikka masala, palak paneer., lamb vindaloo, spinach pakora and so many wonderful Indian dishes thrill my palate, but I don’t always want to fix a multi-faceted meal of Indian offerings myself, so sometimes takeout is a brilliant strategy. If you think that means coming home and eating out of containers, however, you don’t know Pretty Food!
The tough part with Indian food is to make it attractive. Many of the dishes have dark drab-looking sauces and indistinct ingredients, so making an Indian food meal attractive is not easy — but it is a challenge Michele and I happily accepted.
The first thing we realized is that we needed COLOR to offset the brown, brown, brown of the food. Michele came up with the idea of using some beautiful paper procured at a local store to fashion coasters and sort-of doilies that could be placed atop our black dinner plates so they could be viewed through the small glass plates. The pinkish-salmon color with a gold metallic design could not have been more perfect. We went with dark green napkins, which would have been boring — except for the fact that we used huge hot pink floral napkin rings that reminded us of lotus blossoms.
Next, we pulled out herbs and fruit for garnish. What wouldn’t look gorgeous with a spray of champagne grapes and basil? Imagine these vegetable samosas without the garnishes. Don’t you just shudder?
I can’t remember what was inside the phyllo dough triangles pictured above, but we had procured some mango chutney to put into a small container in the middle of the bowl. We dusted the rim with a little smoked paprika, added a basil leaf, and called it good.
The cucumber raita was fairly pretty by itself, but it would not have looked good in a little pile on the on the plate, would it? We had to put it in its own little container. The container itself is a smart cheat. Made of plastic, it weighs almost nothing and it provides a smart way to corral a small individual portion of something attractive. [You can buy them on Amazon and they come with little individual lids, so you can travel with your little concoctions!)
The other bowls with the family-style main courses came out later, after our appetizers had been consumed. Keep the main event at bay while the satisfying warm-up act of hors d’oeuvres is playing, that’s the approach.
Once the table was set and we were almost ready to dine, Michele and I changed into exotic caftans. Perhaps our caftans were responsible for inspiring the evening’s theme in the first place. I can’t say for sure, but we would have looked pretty funny eating hamburgers in this garb. A few more tweaks and we’re ready. Tip: It’s always a good idea to set the table, take a step back, and tweak just a little, if necessary. You don’t want to notice halfway through the meal that something is amiss.
Surely I am not sneaking a bite of one of the baby grapes, am I? Of course not. I am smiling and signaling “Dinner is ready.” Wish you could have been there!