Changing it up

Do you guys watch Worst Cooks in America? My husband and I love it, and we have to apologize to our children for ruining their chances of ever getting on it as a contestant. One of my favorite types of challenges they do is the, “Here’s a basic recipe, here’s my version, now make up a version of your own” challenge. This past season, I remember the Diner Challenge, where Bobby Flay’s team had to come up with their own spin on nachos and Anne Burrell’s team had to come up with a new take on smothered french fries.

This sort of challenge is no sweat if you keep a few flavor profiles in your head all of the time. Like, think of pizza. Not the funky pizzas which have started popping up which involve chicken, or salad, or goat cheese. I mean PIZZA – Pizza Margherita or Supreme (from the 80’s, not today). This gives you the basic pizza profile: tomato sauce, fresh tomatoes, basil, mozzarella, green peppers, black olives, mushrooms, pepperoni, sausage.

Then you take this this profile and use it to change a basic recipe into a new recipe. Here are some “pizza” ideas I have made in the past:

  • I made up a great new salad for my family based on pizzas, using a tomato basil vinaigrette, fresh green pepper, mushrooms, bocconcini (little round balls of mozzarella), tomatoes, and chopped pepperoni with toasted focaccia as croutons.
  • You can also change up meatloaf: exchange all the seasonings for Italian seasoning and garlic powder, top with a good thick red sauce instead of ketchup, substitute some raw Italian sausage for some of the ground beef, add some chopped peppers, and sprinkle some mozzarella on top during the last 15 minutes of baking.
  • How do you change spaghetti into Pizza Spaghetti? Add pepperoni chunks.
  • Making regular burgers into Pizza Burgers is a little more intricate: add some basil and garlic to the ground beef mixture before you make patties, either stuff the burgers with a tablespoon of shredded mozzarella or top your cooked burgers with it, and finally serve on a toasted bun topped with sauteed onions, green peppers, and mushrooms and a couple of tablespoons of red sauce.

Notice how there is Buffalo Chicken everything these days? Same idea. “Buffalo Chicken” means chicken, hot sauce, possibly blue cheese, possibly celery (depending on the dish being converted).

This month, I’m going to be exploring different flavor profiles, as well as different “blueprint recipes” which can be transformed easily using different profiles. I hope you’ll enjoy exploring some new flavors with me, and share some of your family’s favorites!

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