Cooking Without Recipes?
As I sit at my desk eating my homemade vegetable soup* that I made from the plethora of farmers market produce, I got to thinking about cooking. More specifically, how *I* cook.
Now let me explain. I’ve been told many times that I’m a really good cook, and with this blog, I plan to share some of my “concoctions” with you. There’s just one problem: I don’t measure. A handful of this, a splash of that, add enough until it “looks right”, taste until it “tastes right”, and cook “until it’s done.” Intuitive cooking honed by many years of practice and failures.
My family will never let me forget the time at age 13 when I made homemade pizza and I substituted 1:1 dried diced onion for fresh. Even the dog wouldn’t go near it!
Then there’s the time I made my mom’s homemade beef and barley soup (without a recipe – my mom cooks intuitively too) and she told me to add “some” quick cook barley. “Some” to her meant a handful or two and I took it as “the whole box.” Instead of one pot of beef and barley soup, I ended up with three overflowing pots of beef and barley porridge.
Then there was the time I made deviled eggs for the first time and I knew there had to be something red sprinkled on top, so I put cinnamon and nutmeg on it instead of the paprika I should’ve used. The fact my family still ate them is a testament to their love of deviled eggs, not to me.
But it poses the problem of how I can share my “recipes” with you when I don’t have any? It’s going to be a journey, but I’m going to catalog my concoctions here on the Health Kitten blog. I’m still going to cook intuitively (and take photos of the process), but before I throw that “handful” of onion into the dish, I’ll measure it out so you can recreate it in your own kitchen.
What I’m hoping you’ll do is that you will learn how to cook intuitively for yourself and free yourself from measuring. Another benefit is that you will be able to throw together – or “concoct” as I say it – new dishes for yourself using your knowledge and intuition. Cooking for as many years as I have, I know I can substitute kale for spinach in just about any recipe. I know that with my homemade vegetable soup, I use 8-10 cups of water and I add vegetables until it “looks right” and add tomato paste and seasonings until again, it looks right.
Season lightly and TASTE what you’re cooking. A pinch of salt makes the difference between blah and tasty, but too much can make it horrible. Sometimes all you need is some freshly ground black pepper!
Granted, this approach won’t work for baked goods, as there’s a level of chemistry involved and precise measurements are needed for those items to turn out well. I think that’s why I don’t bake much. Well, that and the fact that I would EAT those baked goods, and my thighs don’t need chocolate brownies.
Does this way of cooking always work? Oh hell no! Does that mean I don’t ever make something from a recipe? No, because I always try a new recipe as written once to get the feel for it, then I just use it as a rule of thumb and wing it from there. But it’s been a very long time since I’ve made something that I had to just throw away and order takeout. It was the time I tried to make eggplant Parmesan and I neglected to thoroughly rinse the moisture-sapping salt off the eggplant before the breading/baking. One bite and Tim and I looked at each other in disgust and he said “what am I going out for?” as I was grabbing plates to take them to the garbage. But it’s those screw ups that make you a better cook, trust me!
So fasten your seatbelts and get ready to change the way you think about cooking!
* Recipe to be added once I figure out the recipe plugin for the blog!