Your Cooking Profile

For each of the following 100 food items, rate each according to your current cooking experience.

1/ I'm not sure what this is or how to use this in a dish
2/ I have cooked it, often basically the same way
3/ I've cooked this different ways and want to expand my variety

When you're done, consider these three basic ways to expand your food profile.

For anything rated 1: Try eating it out or at a friend's, search on it, scan books from libraries or local stores

For anything rated 2: Get new ideas from people who are cooking improvisers, explore a wider range of recipes and videos, ask farmers market and specialty grocery vendors for ideas

For anything rated 3: Visit a wider range of restaurants for ideas, attend cooking demonstrations and classes, do broader recipe and video searches, experiment with one new dish or variation every week 


_____ Artichokes _____ Asparagus _____ Beets_____ Brussels sprouts _____ Cabbage
_____ Cactus _____ Capers _____ Carrots _____ Cauliflower_____ Celery _____ Corn_____ Daikon
_____ Garlic _____ Ginger _____ Greens _____ Horseradish _____ Kohlrabi _____ Leeks _____ Lettuce
_____ Mushrooms _____ Onions
_____ Parsnips _____ Peas _____ Peppers _____ Potatoes
_____ Radishes _____ Rutabaga _____ Squash_____ Yams

Herbs & Spices

_____ Basil_____ Cayenne _____ Celery seeds _____ Chives_____ Cinnamon _____ Cloves
_____ Coriander _____ Cumin_____ Curry powder _____Dill_____ Fennel_____ Ginger
_____ Mint
_____ Mustard seed _____ Nutmeg _____ Oregano_____ Paprika _____ Parsley_____ Rosemary
_____ Saffron_____ Thyme_____ Turmeric


_____  Beans _____  Lentils _____  Peanuts _____  Peas


_____  Apples _____  Bananas _____ Berries _____ Coconut _____ Cranberries _____ Cucumbers
_____ Lemons _____ Melons_____ Nuts
_____ Olives _____ Oranges _____ Peaches _____ Pears
_____ Pineapple _____ Tomatoes


_____ Flours _____ Oats _____ Quinoa _____ Rice _____ Tahini


_____  Butter _____  Cheese _____  Coconut milk _____  Cow milk _____  Yogurt


_____  Beef _____  Chicken _____  Lamb _____  Pork _____  Sausage _____  Turkey


_____  Clams _____  Mussels _____  Salmon _____  Sardines _____ Shrimp _____ Tuna _____ White fish

Soy products

_____ Miso _____ Soy milk _____ Soy Sauce _____ Tamari _____ Tempeh _____ Tofu 


12 Agile Dishes

An agile dish is a dish that can accommodate an amazing chemistry of ingredient combinations. Here are a dozen classic examples to consider, along with simple applications.

In a broth or just water, season and simmer some yams or potatoes, white or green beans, greens, chopped or whole tomatoes, mushrooms and meat, fish or soy proteins

Shish ka bobs
Skewer and grill or broil meat or fish, steamed or roasted vegetables and fruits like apples, pineapples or pears

In broth or water, season and simmer vegetables and beans or grains and purée all or parts of it

On purchased or hand made dough or flatbread, put sauce or just oil and herbs and spices, roasted vegetables, fish or sliced meats

Stir fry
In sesame oil, quick cook on strong heat garlic, scallions and ginger with any vegetables and serve on grains or rice. Season with soy sauce and ginger. Add chopped jalapeños

Mix vinegar or yogurt based dressings into sliced cucumbers and raw onions or any combinations of vegetables, fruits and nuts on any kind of greens

Into scrambled eggs cook greens, cheeses, sautéed vegetables, herbs and spices

Stuffed veggies
Stuff steamed peppers, squashes, eggplants or potatoes with mixed vegetables and grains and bake topped with cheeses, breadcrumbs or roasted oats and sauce

Bake and season any kind of pastas with various cheeses and vegetables

Fill burritos with any kinds of proteins and sautéed vegetables, top with sour creams and sliced avocados and olives

In bought or handmade crust, fill with anything you have a taste for and available. Make crusts of shredded potatoes or yams

Wraps and sandwiches
Wrap and sandwich cooked and uncooked seasoned ingredients of choice, fish or meats, whole proteins, add a slaw if you'd like. Use a variety of wrap types and breads. 


24 Pantry Basics

The more variety you have in your pantry, the more improvising you can do. Here are two dozen basics and some of their common applications. Keep as many of them on hand as possible. When you have a few minutes, make a practice of scanning through new recipes in each category for approaches you haven't yet imagined or experimented with. Try them soon and make them your own with variations on themes.

Broth: soups, rice and stews
Butter: sautés, sauces and marinades
Canned beans: salads, soups and stews
Canned fish/meat: salads, stuffing vegetables, over pastas
Catsup: toppings, sauces and dressings
Crackers: appetizers, deserts and breadcrumbs Dry/frozen pasta: pasta dishes, salads and soups Eggs: omelets, salads, appetizers, soups
Flour: breads, pancakes, batters, sauces
Frozen fruit: deserts, sauces, smoothies and salads Fresh/frozen veggies: sides, casseroles, stews stir frys, soups, salads
Garlic: any savory dish, dressings, rubs for meats and vegetables
Grains: sides, stuffings, soups, stews
Herbs: a variety of seasonings
Honey: dressings and marinades
Mayo: salads, dressings
Olive/coconut oil: sautéing anything, dressings and fish/meat preparations
Onions: any savory dish
Peanut butter: dressings, smoothies, sauces Pickles: toppings, dressings and salads
Soy sauce: stir frys, dressings and marinades Spices: a variety of seasonings
Tomato sauce: pasta and stews
Vinegar: dressings, marinades and pickles