I over analyze most things, making multiple lists and outlines for things as simple as going to a Friday night movie or cleaning my apartment, tending to get overwhelmed when plans change. I used to cook in a rigid, recipe-based, methodical way with a little OCD for good measure. Dinner was never ready before dark and when something didn't go according to the instructions of the experts, I fled the kitchen a failure. This is slowly changing (at least when it comes to cooking).

I'm figuring out how to riff off of recipes or just make them up myself. Once you have some basic techniques down, you can make anything. Kris' dad cooks this way for every meal. I'm not quite there yet, but it was nice to share a kitchen with such a laid back cook. The quarters were a little close, so we danced around each other a little.

I was inspired to use what was on hand to make another version of 8-ball squash. I used this super cool cutting board to chop the eggplant, sweet purple peppers, cippolinis and portabellas. I also added red pepper flakes this time.

A few ways I've broken out of the bad habit of cooking rigidity:

Keep a pantry/fridge stocked with versatile basics. (I'm working on a master list!)

Divide your shopping list into sections of the store (Dairy, Produce, Meat, Frozen, Canned goods). This will serve two purposes: disallow you to meander into sections filled with high-fructose corn syrupy items and allow you to creatively work within the confines of a family of like-items. If your recipe (or spontaneous idea) calls for something too expensive or not available, look in the same section for something similar.

Epicurious.com has a database of recipes from Bon Appetit, Gourmet, and SELF magazines. Instead of hunting for ingredients for a recipe, you can use the advanced search to plug in ingredients you already have and recipes will appear that match your criteria. Don't forget to read the user reviews for suggestions and substitutions.

Seek out alternatives to your supermarket: the farmers market, specialty shops, ethnic groceries. Ask sellers about their favorite ways to prepare unfamiliar items.

Be aware of nearby take-out and delivery options for epic failures.

1 comment:

Back Garage said...

Woah, I didn't know epicurious had such a database. That's probably what I need. How do I plug in a 6-pound spiced sausage log?