Most of the time you know that the can of parmesan cheese is in the fridge and that you pull it out for pasta and sprinkling on an occasional salad. But did you know that it can play an important part in your food garnishing as well? Since Parmesan is a hard cheese it holds it’s form when it is heated and then cooled. Which is very cool from a decorating stand point.
This means that you can use it to make baskets for salads and other uses you may have for it in your cuisine needs. Last year we had a dinner for 500 people and wanted to make a unique salad. We made a large rectangular frame out of tag board and put that on top of one of those fancy cooking mats you see in the Gourmet shops. We then spread a layer about a quarter of an inch thick of shredded Parmesan cheese inside the frame and baked it for about 3-4 minutes in a hot oven.
The result was a perfect rectangle of melted cheese. Next we turned it out on a large cutting board and carefully cut it into 5 long strips about 2 to 3 inches wide and while it was still warm we formed the strips into circles. When the circles cooled we had an edible salad container to put on a plate and fill with a pre-dressed salad. The actual evening was a blur for me as we moved very fast to assemble the salad with pear vinaigrette, Gorgonzola, grilled pears and candied walnuts. The guests were very impressed.
You can do this at home for a much smaller number of guests very easily. The process is fairly simple. To make a bowl out of Parmesan cheese you will need about 3 to 4 oz of shredded Parmesan cheese per bowl. Heat the oven to 350 and take a flat cookie sheet out. Decide the size of your bowl by taking out a small salad bowl and inverting it upside down on the counter. Now spread a circle of the Parmesan on your cookie sheet that is just a little bigger that the diameter of the inverted bowl. Smooth the cheese so that it is even and circular in shape. Now pop it into the oven for 3-5 minutes, it should melt but not get brown.
Now take it out of the oven and let it cool until you can comfortably touch it. Carefully loosen it with a spatula and pick it up and drape it over your inverted soup or salad bowl. The natural oil in the cheese will make it easy to loosen. Gently mold it to the bowl and then let it completely cool. in about 6 to 10 minutes you will have a fairly hard but edible bowl that you can use for a salad or as I show in the pictures this bowls holds fresh mozzarella balls that have been marinated in two kinds of pesto. (Basil and Red Pepper) This should provide an excellent way to garnish that nnext fancy salad or cheese tray for your entertaining. Enjoy!
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