5@5 - Aida Mollenkamp
April 4th, 2011
05:00 PM ET
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5@5 is a daily, food-related list from chefs, writers, political pundits, musicians, actors, and all manner of opinionated people from around the globe.

Are you afraid of ... new food?

If you answered yes, please pleasepleasepleaseplease don't be. There's not an eggplant lurking in the shadows wearing a hockey mask, scout's honor.

Here's our two cents: If an unfamiliar edible ends up not being your thing, at least you can say you tried. The worst thing that's going to happen is that you're not going to like it. As we say in this neck of the woods, "if it tastes good, it is good" - at the end of the day, to each their own.

So if you're feeling brave and ready to venture into the market boondocks with wild abandon, Aida Mollenkamp, Cooking Channel host of “Ask Aida” and "FoodCrafters," is here to help you get started.

Adventure is out there!

Five Ways to Become a Food Adventurer: Aida Mollenkamp

It’s a fine line - approximately one grocery store aisle in width - that separates food adventure from mealtime monotony. Despite best intentions, a lot of us turn to the same flavors week after week. It may be out of convenience, habit, or just fear of trying something new, but the result is the same: things get really bland really quickly. Here’s my five-point plan to break the cycle.

1. Follow flavors you like
"Don’t think of your favorite recipe merely as one dish but rather as layers and layers of flavors, so taste and dissect the details at your next dinner. Who knows? You may think you dislike cumin only to realize it’s in a lot of the dishes you dig. Consider these ingredients as jumping-off points for exploration. Wary to try Indian food but you swear by pico de gallo salsa? The chiles, tomatoes and cilantro are shared by both cuisines so it might be more familiar than you might think."

2. Travel through your taste buds
"Any food lover worth her weight dreams about eating steaming bowls of pho in the streets of Vietnam, but not all of us can afford that reality. So, if you’re longing to travel somewhere, live vicariously through the region’s cuisine - while you won’t have souvenirs and snapshots, you’ll rack up plenty of food memories."

3. Buy something new every time you shop
"Consider each trip to the market as a chance to explore. There’s no need to devote hours to a grocery store trip, but strive to buy one different food each time you shop. Sure, you may encounter a few duds, but more often than not, you’ll be pleasantly surprised and may realize something unexpected - like that you actually love sauerkraut."

4. Use your kitchen as a lab
"Instead of looking at cooking as drudgery, consider it as your daily chance for culinary creativity. It takes nothing more than a shift of perspective and it comes at pretty low risk - the worst-case scenario is that the dog ends up being fed really well.

There’s no need to start making tofu from scratch if you’ve never made your own lasagna, but experiment every time you light up the stove. Start simple by swapping the herbs and spices in your favorite recipes, then graduate to using ingredients you’ve never tried. With time, you’ll become confident enough that you just might tackle tofu after all."

5. Make mealtime mash-ups
"With cooking experimentation comes rule breaking, but don’t be scared and just go with it. Growing up in Southern California, I was exposed to all sorts of ethnic flavors that have since made like music and mashed up into cross-cultural dishes such as Korean tacos.

Take a page from that trend and try a spin on your favorite foods, like kimchi in a quesadilla, Chinese 5-spice on a roast chicken, Spanish chorizo on a pizza, or any other twist that will help you forge your own food adventure."

Aida Mollenkamp will be speaking about how television has changed the culinary industry at the Reality Rocks Expo on Sunday, April 10, in Los Angeles.

Is there someone you'd like to see in the hot seat? Let us know in the comments below and if we agree, we'll do our best to chase 'em down.

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Filed under: 5@5 • Think

soundoff (35 Responses)
  1. smita

    It's great to experiment with different foods and flavors. I eat Indian food and lately I've been trying to incorporate new spices and fusion dishes in my meals. I've found some of the recipes on this site very easy to make and delish!


    April 5, 2011 at 10:03 pm |
  2. MSG

    Monosodium Glutamate is where it's at!!!

    April 5, 2011 at 2:12 pm |
  3. Mildred

    Chinese 5 Spice works in a number of things that you might not expect...

    Vanilla Milkshakes, Chocolate Chip Cookies, and shortbread (so far).

    April 5, 2011 at 8:54 am |
  4. AleeD

    About trying new things, I recently found out I'm allergic to garlic. Since I can't seem to get my hummus as smooth as the store-bought types, I figured I would try my hand at making cous cous! LOVE IT!!! I added bacon & spinach one time. On another occasion added olives & sundried tomatoes. What a fun path I'm on now!

    Now I'm looking for inspiration to mix in other ingredients to make it interesting. Any suggestions?

    April 5, 2011 at 7:41 am |
    • MT Miner

      In Tunisia, it is made mostly spicy with harissa sauce, it is served with almost everything, including Lamb, Beef, Camel, and poultry. Fish couscous is Tunisian specialty, it can be also made with octopus in hot red spicy sauce. Couscous in Tunisia is served on every occasion; it is also served sweetened as dessert called masfouf, mostly during Ramadan.

      April 5, 2011 at 3:44 pm |
      • AleeD

        Cool! Thanks for the help!

        April 6, 2011 at 7:46 am |
  5. foodDude

    Pretty interesting to look at but she can't cook for joe and has a hard time answering questions on her show.

    April 4, 2011 at 10:47 pm |

    I'll try anything she's cooking!

    April 4, 2011 at 10:09 pm |
  7. Florian

    How do you recognize people who give you food advice in front of their expensive equipment but don't really cook? They have a shelf of framed photographs right next to their stove vent :)

    April 4, 2011 at 10:00 pm |
  8. Genmaicha

    I wish I wish I wish I could follow this advice, but I have food allergies. New food could cause me to stop breathing. People without food allergies who don't try new food, please reconsider because of people like me!

    April 4, 2011 at 9:46 pm |
  9. AS

    "Weary to try Indian food"??? Perhaps you mean "Wary of trying Indian food" Sheesh.

    April 4, 2011 at 9:27 pm |
    • Andrew

      I am weary of shoddy writing on CNN.com.

      April 4, 2011 at 9:43 pm |
      • AleeD

        There's no waiting over at Fox. I'm sure Sarah would LOVE to hear from you.

        April 5, 2011 at 7:14 am |
    • Brier Bear


      April 5, 2011 at 1:25 am |
    • Brier Bear

      Good gracious, rereading her cooking mashups causes spinal chills. Tell you what, you sweet thang, keep that smile on, pour some wine and let me cook this dinner for you.

      April 5, 2011 at 1:28 am |
  10. Prince

    She wore a RAAAAAZZZZZberry beret, the kind you find in a secondhand store.

    April 4, 2011 at 5:51 pm |
  11. JBJingles

    Love the tips, thanks! I keep trying to get my husband to branch out of his comfort zone and this hit the nail on the head (he says he hates cumin, but loves chili). I just bought some rasberry chipotle sauce and thought that would be ineresting...it was so so, but it had the little rasberry seeds in it, so I kept biting on something hard/crunchy when eating the grilled chicken. I tried, but giving that one up. Can't wait to hit the store and try something new. Thanks again!

    April 4, 2011 at 5:35 pm |
    • JBJingles

      raspberry, raspberry, I need spell check on here

      April 4, 2011 at 5:36 pm |
    • Brier Bear

      If seeds in Razzleberries are bothersome, then how do you eat them fresh? And do not try to eat a pomegranate. SEriously when I cook with razzelberries I sometimes, just sometimes strain the seeds out. But without the seed its missing an important texture.

      April 5, 2011 at 1:24 am |
  12. Jdizzle McHammerpants

    I wonder if that is aluminum or galvanized steel? All one would need to do is tap or hit it to find out.

    April 4, 2011 at 5:29 pm |
    • RichardHead


      April 4, 2011 at 5:32 pm |
      • Truth@RichHead, JDizz

        I took some metallurgy classes in school, so I would be happy to inspect the cabinet, and hit is to ascertain its structural integrity. All in a day's work really...

        April 4, 2011 at 5:35 pm |
      • RichardHead

        Sorry,I was mesmerized by a Bright shiny object-You were saying?

        April 4, 2011 at 5:41 pm |
      • MT Miner

        Being in the metals industry, I could assay that and report back.

        April 4, 2011 at 5:46 pm |
      • The Town Blacksmith

        you want to anneal metals like this. Heat them up, then cool them down so you get the full impact of their properties

        April 5, 2011 at 7:45 am |
    • Dave

      It's Stainless Steel with a #4 brushed finish, if your talking about the range hood.Very common.

      April 5, 2011 at 12:04 pm |
      • Peanut


        April 5, 2011 at 12:50 pm |
  13. Truth


    April 4, 2011 at 5:08 pm |
    • RichardHead@Truth

      More than Interesting-VERY VERY INTERESTING!!! What a Babe,and she can cook!

      April 4, 2011 at 5:12 pm |
      • Truth@RichHead


        April 4, 2011 at 5:23 pm |
    • Not Truth

      Loser! Think of something more INTERESTING to say!

      April 5, 2011 at 12:31 pm |
    • Dr. Phil@Not Truth

      If he's "Truth" and you're "Not Truth" then everything you say has to be a lie!

      How's THAT workin' for ya?

      April 5, 2011 at 12:53 pm |
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