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10 Insanely Good Food Pairings You'd Never Think to Put Together

Salmon + Cardamom

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Salt, pepper, and lemon. Many chefs say that’s all the seasoning you need for a fine cut of salmon. But a whisper of cardamom can add an unexpectedly complex, warm-citrusy flavor to buttery salmon.

Add it up: Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Heat 2 tablespoons honey, 1 tablespoon orange juice, and 1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom in a small saucepan over medium-low until honey is melted, about 1 minute. Place 4 center-cut salmon fillets skin side-down on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet and brush with half the cardamom mixture. Bake 5 minutes, brush on remaining glaze, and cook for another 5 minutes or until center of the fish is just cooked through. (Serves 4)

Red Cabbage + Banana

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Teeming up sweet fruit with a bitter veg will leave you pleasantly surprised. Plus it’s a great way to use up a never-ending head of cabbage. Frozen banana along with a helping of berries lends a sweet, frosty creaminess to counter the earthiness of the cabbage.

Add it up: Combine 1 cup unsweetened almond milk or coconut milk beverage, 1/2 cup plain yogurt, 1 cup chopped red cabbage, 1 tablespoon ground flaxseed, 1/2 cup frozen blueberries, 1/2 frozen banana, and 1/4 teaspoon each almond extract and cinnamon in a blender until smooth. (Serves 1)

Cocoa + Avocado

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Fatty in a good way, the creamy flesh of avocado has long been known to raw foodies as the perfect foil for pleasantly bitter cocoa in puddings and, even better, a Mayan-inspired ice cream. The key is to use fruit that are not too hard or too soft to avoid an overly strong avocado-y flavor.

Add it up: Combine flesh of 2 avocados, 1 can (14 ounces) coconut milk, 1 large banana, 1/3 cup each honey and cocoa powder, 1 teaspoon each vanilla extract and cinnamon, and 1/8 teaspoon cayenne or chili powder in a blender until smooth. Chill mixture at least 4 hours, then process in an ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s directions. (Serves 6)

RELATED: 10 Delicious Avocado Desserts

Beef + Blueberries

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Berries in burgers impart a sweetness that surprisingly compliments the richness of the beef.

Add it up: In a large bowl, mix 1/2 cup fresh or frozen blueberries (large berries halved), 2 chopped garlic cloves, 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar, 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard, 1 teaspoon each cumin powder and Worcestershire sauce, and 1/4 teaspoon each salt and black pepper. Add 1 pound ground sirloin and gently mix until just combined. Form into 4 patties and grill over medium-high heat for 5 minutes on each side or until internal temperature reaches 160 degrees. Serve on buns topped with favorite condiments and vegetables. (Serves 4)

Oats + Sriracha

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If the most creative thing you’re doing with your morning oatmeal is topping it with almond butter, you’re selling this whole grain short. Oats can and should be treated as a blank canvas for all sorts of flavorings, including savory ones. The Thai-inspired creation below has that winning spicy-sweet-salty mix that’s so sought after these days and is perfect morning, noon, or night.

Add it up: Place 1 cup steel-cut oats in a medium-sized saucepan with 3 cups water. Bring to a slight simmer, remove from heat, cover, and let soak overnight. In the morning, stir in 1/2 cup coconut milk, 2 tablespoons reduced-sodium soy sauce, 1 tablespoon honey, 2 teaspoons each minced fresh ginger and sriracha sauce, and 2 sliced scallions; heat until warmed through. Top with chopped roasted peanuts or cashews. (Serves 4)

RELATED: 16 Savory Oatmeal Recipes

Brie Cheese + Peanut Butter

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A good grilled cheese should be so much more than doughy white bread and slices of orange processed dairy product. Case in point: Swapping in brie cheese and adding peanut butter turns an everyday sandwich into a gooey, creamy masterpiece. In the recipe below, fruit jam adds a sweet kick while arugula delivers a peppery finish.

Add it up: Spread 1 tablespoon each natural peanut butter and strawberry jam on a slice of crusty bread. Top with 1 ounce brie cheese, 1 handful arugula, and another slice bread. Melt butter in a skillet over medium heat. Add sandwich and heat until cheese is melted and bread is golden brown, about 2 minutes per side. (Serves 1)

Nori + Corn on the Cob

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Not just for sushi, nori (dried seaweed) and miso can turn flame-licked sweet corn into an umami bomb. Also try using premade nori powder to add briny ocean flavor to salad dressings, soups, and popcorn.

Add it up: Place 2 tablespoons butter in a small microwave-safe bowl and heat until melted, about 20 seconds. Stir in 2 teaspoons miso and 1 pinch red chili flakes. Using a spice grinder or a sharp chef’s knife, finely chop 2 nori sheets and spread out on a plate or cutting board. Grill 4 husked corncobs over medium heat, turning several times, until kernels are tender with some charring. Brush cobs with miso butter and roll in nori. (Serves 4)

Dijon Mustard + Dark Chocolate

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You likely won’t find any mustard-flavored candy bars on store shelves. But when Dijon lends tempered heat to melted chocolate’s rich sweetness, the result is what’s sure to become your new favorite salad dressing. Try drizzling it over tender salad greens adorned with sliced peaches and prosciutto or rotisserie chicken. If the dressing solidifies upon sitting, whisk in a small amount of hot water right before serving.

Add it up: Place 1 1/2 ounces chopped dark chocolate in a microwave-safe bowl and heat on high in 25-second intervals, stirring between, until melted. Stir in 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive or avocado oil, 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar, 2 teaspoons each Dijon mustard and honey, and 1/4 teaspoon salt. (Serves 2 to 3)

Beets + Tahini

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Want to make a dip for your soirees that will catch everyone’s eye? Earthy-sweet beets lend traditional tahini-infused hummus a more adventurous flavour as well as a vibrant hue that really perks up an appetizer table. Serve with crunchy sliced veggies like kohlrabi, tortilla chips, or chunks of toasted pita.

Add it up: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Wrap 3 beats tightly in aluminium foil, place on a baking sheet, and bake for 1 hour or until very tender. When cool enough to handle, scrub off skins with a paper towel. Purée in a food processor with 1 can (14 ounces) rinsed and drained chickpeas, 3 tablespoons tahini; 1 teaspoon each cumin, lemon zest, and lemon juice; 2 chopped garlic cloves; and 1/4 teaspoon salt until smooth. Transfer hummus to a serving bowl and garnish with crumbled goat cheese and chopped chives. (Serves 8)

RELATED: The Definitive Guide to Homemade Hummus

Radish + Kefir

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Move over gazpacho. Blend peppery radishes with tangy kefir ,and you have a delightfully piquant cold soup.

Add it up: Purée 2 cups plain kefir; 1/2 pound trimmed and quartered radishes; 1 peeled, seeded, and chopped English cucumber; 1 chopped garlic clove; 1 tablespoon white wine vinegar; and 1/4 teaspoon each salt and pepper in a blender or food processor until smooth. Transfer to a container, stir in 2 sliced scallions and 2 tablespoons chopped dill, and chill for at least 2 hours. Divide among serving bowls and drizzle with olive oil. (Serves 4)

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