Do you always consult a recipe when you cook, or can you cook by “instinct”? I learned to cook mostly by watching my aunt and my grandmother, a little my bobbe, who was my aunt’s mother. My mother did a lot of basic stuff without recipes as well, but she also made a lot of stuff with recipes she either got from friends, or that came out of a copy of The Joy of Cooking that she got as a wedding present.
When I first became a vegetarian, I cooked a lot from recipes, particularly from The Tao of Cooking, and also from a couple of magazines I subscribed to for my first couple of years, but I’ve got them memorized now.
The thing is, I have done so much cooking, that I have a basic recipe in my head for just about anything I want to make, and I know what seasonings go together, DON’T go together, and what you have to do to be able to add certain things to a dish-- what vegetables need to be blanched, what fruits need to be sweetened, what fruits need something to add tartness, what should be boiled, what should be sauteed, what should be deep-fried, what should be pan-fried, how much to reduce or increase the liquid in a basic recipe if I want to add such-and-such an ingredient, and so forth. If I want to turn a cake I’ve made before into muffins, what tweaks does it need to get “muffin” texture, and not crumble when it pops out of the tin.
How many other people cook like this?
Does this make me a good cook, or does it mean I lack adventure? Honestly, sometimes I eat something way outside my repertoire at someone’s house, or a restaurant, and go home and make it through guesswork, and I can usually get it right. It might take one bad batch, but I can manage.
If you cook without written recipes, what could you put together for dinner? I could do several things, but here’s something I could do, and on pretty short notice:
Spinach-mushroom quiche (or individual tarts) with Swiss & cheddar cheese.
Chickpea-cucumber-tomato salad, with dressing made of (light) sour cream, yogurt, buttermilk, paprika & dill.
Deep-fried, cubed tofu with choice of peanut, or sweet & sour sauce. Sauteed pineapple, green & orange bell peppers, and onions, to mix in if desired.
Homemade dinner rolls, white & whole wheat, possibly rye as well. (I also can do GF rolls with rice, almond & lentil flours, tapioca starch & xanthan gum.) Butter, as well as seasoned olive oil.
Blanched asparagus tips with almond slivers, sauteed in olive oil & garlic.
Pastries filled with a variety of fruits and cheesecake-type fillings, coffee or tea, for dessert.
If the mix seems a little odd, it’s because I’ve more than once thought I was inviting all vegetarians, with one or two omnivores, and then found out that a couple of people had gone vegan and not told me, or that one of my “omnis” was actually lactose intolerant. I could do the whole meal vegan, and I have-- when I want to do that, and there are more than four people, I usually pull a tofurky out of the freezer, roast it with mushrooms, carrots, peas, parsnips and red potatoes, and make sweet potato tsimmes, and a garden salad. But that’s almost cheating. No one needs a recipe for that.
It seems that cookbooks are really popular, so a lot of people cook from recipes. If you cook with recipes, is it because no one taught you to cook, or is it because your trying to break away from what you grew up eating? Or something else?