I love recipes. I collect them. I cut recipes out of magazines and paste them on large index cards, which I’ve been doing since I was young. I copy and paste recipes into my recipe software on my computer. And, as you all know, I collect cookbooks with recipes.
I have followed recipes before. I follow recipes for cakes, pastries, and certain desserts. But with everything else? I don’t.
I might even have a recipe propped in front of me on my kitchen island. I look at it occasionally while I’m cooking, but mostly it is a guide. Something obviously intrigued me about this recipe, like perhaps a new flavor combination, so I want to use it. But that doesn’t necessarily mean that I follow it to a T.
During my tenure of teaching cooking classes I always noticed that women preferred to follow a recipe exactly, where men were more creative, not necessarily measuring everything, and more carefree. To this day I wonder what the basis is for this difference. Well, I’m more with the men.
This is especially true when it comes to seasoning. Let’s say a tomato soup calls for 1 teaspoon of dried basil, but you really like basil. Then add more! Tasting is such an integral part of cooking anyway, so you should be tasting along the way. If you really love garlic, use more garlic cloves – the recipe will work just the same. If you’re worried about a seasoning like cayenne pepper or Tabasco sauce, just start with a minimum amount and taste. You can always add more, but you can’t get rid of it once it’s in there.
And I know people who will totally ignore a recipe that contains an ingredient that they don’t like. Let’s say you want to make a seafood pasta but it has fennel in it, but you dislike fennel. Omit it! If you feel obligated to replace it, use some sliced leeks – it’s that simple.
And even regarding a main ingredient, let’s say broccoli in broccoli soup. You don’t like broccoli? You could still use the recipe and make cauliflower soup.
Cooking is really common sense. Relax when you’re cooking. Read through your recipe and understand the process. Properly written recipes will list ingredients in the order that they’re used, such as oil before the chopped onions, because you must pour some oil in the pan before sauteeing the onions. And there are certain rules within ingredients, such as the list of herbs and spices. For example, 1 tablespoon of seasoning will always be listed before 1 teaspoon of another seasoning. Recipes make sense, and need to be understood. But that doesn’t mean they won’t work if you play around with them a little. Get creative in the kitchen and use what you like. Again, this isn’t rocket science, it’s just home cooking!