“I’d love to have your recipe!” is as much a compliment as it is a request. I usually reply that I don’t follow the recipe, at least not exactly.
It took my husband many years to finally accept that I cannot always duplicate a meal. Oh, chili always has the same basic ingredients; I start with a base of tomatoes, peppers, onions, and seasoning, in addition to a hearty dose of beans. Then my mood of the day comes through. I might add extra spice, a second type of bean, or perhaps a little corn. It’s a chef’s choice, right?
I look at a recipe as an artist might look at his canvas and paints. It’s the starting point; a sketch that needs developing, coloring, and depth. Just as each artist sees the same mountain in a different perspective, so each cook may have a unique interpretation of the recipe.
And so I begin with the raw recipe, a template sketch that calls out for a personal touch. I might add a different herb, I might decide try doubling the vanilla or using half as much salt. I might even eliminate the sugar and add a few herbs to bring out a flavor burst.
The recipes given here will always be open to your interpretation. I usually provide some variations or possible substitutions, but I understand that you may feel a different choice is in order. If your chili must call “hot” from the next room, then please, add more spice! If your pudding needs to be less sweet, cut back the sugar just a bit. If red bell peppers are your family’s favorite, use them instead of green.
Working through the recipe as you prepare it, taste it as it comes together. Remember to allow the spices to develop before deciding it needs more, but don’t be afraid to experiment a bit. In time, you will get a feel for how it must come together. I can taste chili in the early stages and know how much more spice I might need to acquire the finish I desire. I can feel the texture of the bread and know just about how much more flour to add.
I’ve learned over time. I made some mistakes. Fine tuning takes time.
Important Note: Some parts of recipes are necessary to keep as they are. Quiche will not set up correctly if the ratios of egg to liquid are not maintained. You may, of course, choose alternative fillings, but keep your egg to liquid ratio.
And each time you create the recipe, it might need a little change. Herbs and spices can have different intensities. Some increase over time, others decrease. Flour amounts vary according to temperature and humidity (more on this coming up in another post!) Rather than fight the recipe, work with it and modify it to be what you need today. Realize that tomorrow it might be different.