If you love to cook like I do, you may find yourself doing a little adlibbing when it comes to following a recipe. Reading between the lines is often necessary in cooking. If you’re like my daughter, that may be a scary thought. What if it doesn’t turn out right? Know that it if doesn’t, that’s ok. That’s how we learn. After you do it awhile, you’ll become attuned to the ingredients that work best together.
I’ve often said, “Let your taste buds be your guide.” The next time you’re at your favorite restaurant, ask yourself, What ingredients do I taste in this dish? Notice the ingredient combinations and how they compliment each other. I once visited a restaurant 3 times just to figure out the ingredients in a mushroom salad I was in love with. I even talked to the server to see if I got the ingredients right. She was nice enough to let me in on how they made it.
Don’t be afraid to omit, add or substitute. Make sure you taste along the way. If you add, add a little (you can always add more). If you omit, make sure the dish can hold it’s own if an ingredient is taken away. If you substitute, make sure the new ingredient compliments the dish or would taste just as good, if not better with the new ingredient.
Base recipes can help you build a great dish. Thankfully, with the web, it’s easy to find those kinds of things. For instance, if I have asparagus on hand, I’ll look up recipes for asparagus. I may not even follow the recipe. I’m just looking for a base recipe so I can use the ingredients I’ve got in my pantry or frig.
A recipe can have multi-purposes. I love taking a recipe that was meant for one thing and using it for something else. For instance, I’ve got a recipe for tequila chicken that was meant to top a salad. I use it 4 different ways: in a crock pot with salsa, grilled, on pasta or in tacos. I have another recipe for Oriental dressing that was originally designed to dress a pasta dish. It’s one of my kid’s favorite recipes. I use it as a Chinese Chicken Salad Dressing. Use your imagination.
Our business is based on substituting less healthy ingredients for healthier ones. There’s a great article on cooking with Greek yogurt you gotta check out. It’s a nice example of a substitute reference.
Make sure you keep your recipes in a recipe journal. You’ll be able to make notes and save photos alongside your favorite recipes. Read my article, Cooking Outside the Recipe Box for tips on creating a recipe journal.
I do not save the recipes I don’t absolutely love. When you have this regimen, you always end up with dishes that will thrill most of your family and friends. Cooking good food makes everyone happy!