Dried foods can be rehydrated to make them easier to use in recipes. To be used as sweeteners, dates often require soaking for an hour or so, then blending until smooth. It is important to remove the seeds from the dates before using them. Nuts and seeds from many fruits can be soaked to make them blend up more smoothly. Seeds and nuts contain enzyme inhibitors that limit their digestibility.
When we soak seeds and nuts for 15 minutes, we release up to 50 percent of the enzyme inhibitors. By soaking them for the correct amount of time (see the chart here), we can release all of the enzyme inhibitors, making the seeds and nuts easier to assimilate.
Sprouting a seed or nut will give it more of a watery and sweet taste, so sometimes soaked nuts are better in a recipe than fully sprouted ones. Do not use soaking water from seeds, since it contains all of the enzyme inhibitors we are removing. (The soaking water from fruits such as dates or sun-dried tomatoes, however, is excellent to use.)
Garnishing is the art of beautifying foods. There are almost limitless colors and shapes to work with, so use your creativity. There are many different tools, too. A vegetable peeler can be used to peel the skin of a tomato to produce a thin strip that can be rolled up to look like a rose. A sharp spoon can be used to sculpt root vegetables into many shapes.
There are also standard garnishing tools such as the radish roser, which produces a rose shape out of a radish, and the tomato scooper, which perfectly removes the seeds from a tomato. The Japanese have discovered some of the most beautiful ways to garnish foods, and there are a variety of books on the subject.
Garnishing foods enhances the presentation and adds to our enjoyment of food. Remember, eating is an experience, and each part of it—from the atmosphere to the taste, color, and garnish—plays a large part in the pleasure it provides.