Menu mantra: color, temperature, texture

Brown rice w/sauteed vegetables; smoked salmon

Short-grain brown rice "colored" with sauteed vegetables and a bit of smoked salmon.

A young man in his last semester of high school recently told me about his plans to attend culinary school this fall.  What inspires him?

“My Mom’s a great cook,” he said. “She rarely follows the recipe; adapts everything to what we like. She likes to explores new tastes.”

Mom as role model in the kitchen — good stuff. And on those rare occasions when he does cook?

“I like Asian cooking; it’s much more colorful on the plate. More texture. Lots of veggies.”

Looks matter when it comes to menu planning, as noted on

Color is probably the most important consideration to think about in meal planning. Nutritionists advise making your plate look like a painter’s palette. The more different colors on your plate, the more varied and healthy your diet will be. Temperature and texture should be varied to add interest and make the meal more pleasing to the palate. Choose some cold foods, some served at room temperature, and some hot. Crisp, crunchy, smooth, chunky, and tender are all textures you should think about.

I recalled our conversation recently when planning a simple brown rice dinner with sauteed peppers, mushrooms, onions and spinach. Smoked sockeye salmon prepped by a friend was a bit cooler than the rest of the plate. Colors were vibrant, and textures were interesting enough to pass the color and texture test. Son #1, only a few years younger than the aspiring chef, gave the plate a thumbs-up (not his usual reaction to vegetarian mains).

It was great synergy — a Deborah Madison recipe that followed (loosely) the color-temperature-texture mantra of nutritionists everywhere.

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