In the past, I have posted a handful of methods and recipes around making your own kitchen staples and preserving in season produce. These have been some of my favorite recipes to share and to make in my own home. Why? Because these recipes can also be put into a fun category called "unrecipes". They are usually quite forgiving of exact measurements and tend to shine when you add a little more of this or a little less of that. In them, I have leared what is probably my number one lesson about food and preparing it: the best food is made when the food tastes great to you.
Um, duh. Food is good if you think it’s good. Real deep.I know but hear me out! If you browse a cookbook, pick a recipe and prepare the recipe exactly as instructed you will end up with a food item that will probably look pretty close to what is in the picture and will likely taste how the writer of the recipe intended it to. But, if you made this recipe and didn’t stop and think about how much you just love cilantro or really hate fish sauce but still put in the exact amount of each then you may find this dish good but not great. And you may end up not making it again because while it was good it wasn't…great.
Now, if you had some practice at trusting yourself in the kitchen, you would read over that recipe and immediately wipe the fish sauce and double the cilantro. Since you are playing a bit with the recipe, tasting the dish as ingredients is a must. Soon you will find that sweet spot and when you sit down and take that first bite….just yum. That, my friends is the whole point food. That yum.
So how do we get from following a recipe to the letter to tossing stuff in and knowing it will likely be good? Time in the kitchen and trying small, harmless “unrecipes” to get your brain trained to add, taste, add, stop based on what you like. If you continuously make meh food in your kitchen and only find real food pleasure eating out, guess what you are going to do? So let’s reserve food out as the special event it was meant to be and make what we eat at home exactly what we would want to order as much as we can.
Over the next few weeks, I’m going to be sharing a series of “unrecipes” that include a list of ingredients and some guidelines on how much of each thing to add. But here’s the twist: I don’t want you to feel tied to each exact amount and ingredient. It is good to have all the ingredients and amounts on hand, but make sure as you go you are tasting and thinking about what you like. Another fun bonus of these “unrecipes” is that many are basic kitchen staples many of us pick up form the store often. So in addition to building some kitchen confidence, you may find you end up saving some cash too. Talk about a win win!
Now if you just can’t wait to try this skill out, hop over to my take pasta sauce. I have included complete amounts but truthfully, I have followed this recipe completely about 0 times since I posted it. When I first began to make it, yes I was a stickler for amounts. Over time (and practice) I know what core things need to be there for us and what things need more and what need a little less to make this truly mine. And I have not bought store sauce in years! I hope you will try out some of all of my kitchen staple “unrecipes” and begin to have fun and make good stuff in your kitchen. Because you can.