Amp Up Your Cooking Game

Expand your cooking repertoire with these tips for intermediate-level cooks.

Cooking suddenly becomes more exciting when you’ve mastered some of your favourites, then it becomes time to do a bit more improvising. All of a sudden that piece of salmon you know how to cook with your eyes closed becomes the main ingredient in a curry dish or that block of tofu goes from baked to seared and smothered with miso gravy. Get inspired by the suggestions below and say hello to a new twist on some classic recipes.

  • Pancakes: You’d never know how versatile pancakes are as an ingredient just by looking at them. Hold off on any sweetener next time you’re making a stack. Dilute the batter with milk or other nondairy product so that it’s closer to crepe batter. Make large, thin pancakes one at a time in a nonstick skillet, transferring them to a warm oven as they cook. Stuff the pancakes with pulled chicken or turkey breast that has been briefly cooked in your favourite teriyaki sauce and top with thinly sliced scallions, toasted sesame seeds and grated carrot. Roll up and serve with low-sodium soy sauce on the side.
  • Potato fritters: Next time you have leftover vegetables (whether they’re raw, cooked or mashed) try using them instead of grated potatoes next time you make fritters. Grated zucchini, carrot, celery root, and butternut squash are fantastic when used raw. Mashed or roasted sweet potatoes, yams, purple potatoes, and cauliflower are also delicious. You can either cook in a skillet using a small amount of oil or in a hot oven using a baking sheet. Top with nonfat plain yogurt, fruit chutney, a crispy egg or salsa before serving.
  • Use naan as a pizza crust: Naan bread makes a great individual pizza crust and it allows everyone to choose their own toppings. Create a Mediterranean-inspired naan pizza by spreading the naan with hummus and then topping with sliced Kalamata olives, fresh tomato slices, artichoke hearts, and roasted red peppers. Sprinkle with a creamy feta or fresh goat’s milk cheese before baking. Top the pizza with plenty of fresh arugula and pomegranate seeds.
  • Poach salmon: Poaching is a slightly retro method of cooking salmon, resulting in delicately flavoured fish ideal for use in salads and sandwich spreads. When poaching salmon use a cup or two of white wine along with enough to cover as the liquid. Add a small handful of fresh dill, parsley (stems are fine), a shallot, a couple of whole peppercorns, and a spritz of lemon to the poaching liquid. Gently poach the salmon in the gentle simmering water being careful not to overcook the fish (it should take about 7-10 minutes depending on the size of the fillet). Use the chilled salmon in green salads or flaked into a sandwich or wrap.

Tips for getting inspired in the kitchen

  • Try grocery shopping at a new store; new ingredients are always a good way to get your creative juices flowing. This could simply be a store that’s out of the way or it could be that new North African specialty store that just opened.
  • Try a new cuisine, whether at a restaurant or at home with a new recipe. There are so many incredibly tasty cuisines and cooking styles all over the globe, don’t miss out on trying new things!
  • Attend (or host) potlucks: Potlucks are an easy way to try new foods and it absolves the host from having to cook an entire meal for a crowd.