>Not so much with everyday dishes at home <
While recognizing that this is generally true, I've never understood it. People will spend hours cooking, making sure the food tastes just so. And then just slap in on a plate.
Not in my house. Everything here gets plated and served with the best presentation I can manage.
Sure, it takes extra time. But as you note, we eat with our eyes first.
>Pinwheels of red salmon and some white fish wrapped around a scallop look pretty nice, too.<
Sounds real pretty.
If you're up to it, try cutting salmon and a white fish into long, squared-off strips. Then braid them, using two salmon and one white, or two white and one salmon. Serve them on a bed of saffron cream sauce, and I guarantee the oohs and ahs when you put that on the table will go on for quite some time.
JSS: Something else to consider: Odd numbers are more active than even numbers. That's why things put down in ones, threes or fives are more interesting than pairs or quartets.
Also, make a real effort in how you decorate and garnish. For instance, take a bowl of hummus. Pretty boring, just the way it sits. When I serve it, however, I make a paper stencil consisting of five long, ovaloid "petals." I mound the hummus, cover with the stencil and sprinkle some paprika. Lifting the stencil and I have a floral pattern. Then either a black olive or peperdaw goes into the center, and it looks like an echinacea blossom.
If I did this more often I'd make a permenant stencil out of flexible plastic.
Similarly, for a scallops with sweet & sour braised lentils dish, I use a stencil in the shape of a scallop shell. The lentils are thus laid down in a scallop-shell pattern, and the scallops arranged on it.
I don't expect that most home cooks would take the time and trouble for these sorts of approaches. But it gives you an idea of the directions you can take.
They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling