COOKING IN LANGLEY: Starting with a blank canvas

Chef Dez offers tips on freestyling in the kitchen.

When was the last time you unleashed your culinary talents?

I don’t mean cooking from your favourite cookbook; I am talking about making something in the kitchen completely from the ideas in your head and following your taste buds along the way.

If your first inclination when reading this makes you cringe with stress, I am here to help.

Let’s face it, we all have kitchens and we need food to stay alive, so why not try to bring your cooking ability to new heights every now and then?

These are life skills that will influence your dinner table for years to come.

Honing these skills will not only bring some excitement to your regular meal planning, but also increase your confidence in the kitchen.

The easiest way to approach this, is by beginning with meal ideas that use a blank canvas as a starting point.

Being a chef, people always ask me what my favourite things to cook are, and I usually answer with “pizza and pasta.”

These bases are perfect lackluster starting points that can be influenced in so many ways with unlimited ingredient and idea combinations.

The first thing is to keep it simple.

If it is beyond your desire, capabilities, or timeframe, I am not expecting you to make the pizza or pasta dough from scratch.

Simple pre-made pizza crusts and dried pasta is a good enough start. In a pinch I have even created individual pizzas from pita or naan breads.

Again, this is not about producing the canvas, it is about your creativity on the canvas.

Making the canvas is something that you can pursue later down the road, if desired.

The next step is to investigate what you have in your refrigerator and pantry and start choosing some base ingredients to work with.

Maybe something you have an abundance of, or something you have forgotten about.

Have a look in your freezer too while you’re at it.

You’ll be amazed at what you find to work with.

Although it would be very traditional, with either pizza or pasta, to start with a base tomato sauce and add your selected ingredients to it, I want you to try something different and out of the ordinary.

For example, I have made pizzas with a sauce that consisted of cream cheese, dates, raw garlic and salt; and just last night I made a lamb rigatoni that used no tomatoes at all. If your mind draws a blank, then it is fine to peruse the internet for some ideas to get you started but try not to follow recipes specifically. This is about improving your personal culinary imagination. A wise man once told me “how can you cut any wood, if you don’t sharpen the saw every now and then?”

Trial and error is the best way to learn. Yes, I did say “error”. You are going to make some mistakes along the way. The important aspect of this is to be okay with making these blunders. This is all about personal growth in the kitchen. These errors will hopefully help you figure what works, and what doesn’t… which in turn will assist you with future escapades in the kitchen.

If you are still at a loss as to where to begin, then go ahead and find a recipe that represents something completely different than what you would normally cook, and make it.

What I want you to do then is make notes on the recipe on how you would recreate it to make it your own.

What ingredients could you add, take out, or replace?

What do you think will work?

Again, there will still be a learning curve to this, but it is a starting point nonetheless.

Most importantly: make notes. It may seem tedious to do, but you will want to recreate dishes that work, and try not to make the same mistakes with the ones that don’t.

We keep a book of blank pages in our kitchen, called our kitchen journal, that we fill with ideas and culinary pathways we have tried. Have fun with it. Everything is perspective.

The added benefit is that every time you choose to cook at home, instead of eating out, you open the door to: saving money, eating healthier, and family team building. Until next time… Happy Cooking.

– Chef Dez is a food columnist and culinary instructor in the Fraser Valley. Visit him at www.chefdez.com. Send questions to dez@chefdez.com or to P.O. Box 2674, Abbotsford, B.C. V2T 6R4

Just Posted

Ex-Nanaimo man convicted of 1999 sex assault at Abbotsford music festival

James Allen Redden, 50, found guilty of three charges

Langley rower takes silver at Lucerne, Switzerland

Andrea Proske quit a good job to take up the sport at a relatively late age. It worked out.

14-year-old pilot attempts to break Guinness World Record at Langley airport

Mohd Shaikhsorab wants to become youngest pilot with fewest hours logged to fly solo

Langley’s Brunsch bunch

It’s all relative for lacrosse-playing brothers who are teammates

Lower Mainland cools down as heat wave lifts

Environment Canada predicts temperatures in the mid to low 20s

Stolen sunshade puts damper on Lower Mainland woman’s pet-relief effort

Broken umbrella taken from White Rock lawn ‘within 10 minutes’

Wildfires erupt in B.C. Okanagan forcing evacuation orders and a highway closure

Check out a list of up-to-date information on blazes happening within the Kamloops Wildfire Centre.

‘Amazing Race Canada’ competitors face B.C. challenge

They drove Corvettes, mastered falconry basics, and ate blueberry pie in the Cowichan Valley

Teen killed by train remembered for his love

Friends and family share stories of young Crescent Beach train victim

Grizzly bear jumps in river, chases B.C. kayaker

The bear got a bit too close for comfort along the Elaho River near Squamish

Parks Canada looks to shine light on cloudy future for historic sites

A plan is in place to produce 10-year plans designed to turn around sagging attendance figures

B.C. poet shines a bright light on struggle with homelessness

Book launch for John La Greca’s Homeless Memorial is at Vernon’s Gallery Vertigo July 21.

Ontario police say attack on Muslim man was motivated by hate

Two men, aged 27 and 19, have been charged with assault in the incident

Canadian Tire delivers toys to ease kids’ street play pain in B.C. neighbourhood

It’s like Christmas for 11 kids who are supposed to be confined to their yards by strata bylaw

Most Read