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By Elke Probkevitz

We all have flavor preferences that speak to us; go-to dishes that push our buttons every time. These dishes might be flavors we love, but even our favorites can get a little mundane sometimes. If you take the flavors you love from classic dishes and reinterpret them, you can come up with something inspiring and different. With a little creativity and ingenuity, these dishes should take you back to the classic flavors you love in a new and innovative way.

Caprese salad. This classic salad is made with overlapping layers of fresh mozzarella, tomatoes, and basil seasoned with salt and olive oil. Transform these flavors into a soup using fresh or canned chopped tomatoes, a big bunch of basil, and shredded mozzarella to garnish. Use a combination of vegetable broth and milk for a creamy base, or substitute coconut milk for a pareve variation.

Sushi. You can’t walk down the street these days and not stumble upon a restaurant that offers sushi. It’s a popular dish that is light and easy with simple ingredients. Making sushi at home, however, is not so simple. Take your favorite sushi ingredients and transform them into a salad that’s easy to prepare with the same flavors. Combine steamed sushi rice with cucumber, avocado, scallions, and sushi-grade tuna or salmon if you like. Dress the salad with soy sauce mixed with wasabi powder for an added kick. Garnish with sesame seeds.

Caesar salad. A classic salad served in most dairy restaurants, Caesar salad is simple romaine lettuce, big crunchy croutons, and a killer mayonnaise-based dressing made with garlic, Parmesan cheese, Dijon mustard, and Worcestershire sauce. Change it up a little by grilling the romaine hearts on a grill pan and serving the lettuce in spears instead of separating the leaves. The grilling will add texture and smoky flavor and it will look beautiful on the plate as well.

Pastas. Love the flavors of lasagna or pesto pasta but want something different? Make a deconstructed version that will taste just as great with less work. Cook pasta and toss with ricotta, mozzarella, Parmesan, and tomato sauce and heat through. Instead of taking the extra step to make a pesto sauce, simply toss cooked pasta with sautéed garlic, olive oil, toasted pine nuts, and Parmesan cheese and heat through. Garnish with fresh basil and more Parmesan. You’ll enjoy the same flavors with a new twist.

Burgers. Grilling season is upon us and what’s better than a classic burger on a bun? But this summertime staple has so much potential for new flavors and varieties. Use different meats like lamb, turkey, or a mixture of beef, veal, and lamb. Each meat gives the burger a complexity and depth of flavor. Stuff your burger with sautéed onions, mushrooms, or jalapeño for an added kick. Top your burger with a fried egg or avocado for a new twist on the old lettuce and tomato. Kick up your condiments with a spicy aioli instead of the regular ketchup. v

Caprese Soup


2 Tbsp. coconut oil

5 garlic cloves, sliced

1 28-oz. can crushed tomatoes

1 28.-oz can plum tomatoes, drained

½ cup fresh basil leaves, plus more sliced for garnish

1 cup vegetable or chicken broth

⅔ cup coconut milk

1 Tsp. sea salt, or to taste

5–6 sun-dried tomato halves, cut into thin slices

shredded mozzarella for garnish, optional


Heat coconut oil over low heat and add the garlic. Cook for about a minute to soften and infuse the oil with garlic. Cut the tomatoes in large pieces. Remove the hard stem base and add to the pot. Add a handful of whole basil leaves. Cover and cook over a low flame for about 30 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool slightly. Purée the tomato mixture with an immersion blender or regular blender until there are no more chunks of tomato.

Return to stove. Add broth. If the soup is too thick or concentrated, add a little more broth. Add the coconut milk and heat through. Season with salt to taste. Garnish with slices of sun-dried tomato, thinly sliced basil, and mozzarella (optional, for dairy meals).

Want to learn how to cook delicious gourmet meals right in your own kitchen? Take one-on-one cooking lessons or give a gift to an aspiring cook that you know. For more information, contact Take Home Chef personal chef services by calling 516-508-3663, writing to, or visiting

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Posted by on May 2, 2013. Filed under In This Week's Edition. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.