A few weeks ago, a group of friends got together for a cooking party at Cuisine Style in Belmont. The evening was billed as an Iron Chef-style competition, although in the spirit of friendship, we did not declare any “winners”. Basically, every group that managed to get something edible on the table was in good shape.
The best take-away from that night was the chance to be creative in the kitchen – a few main ingredients were provided (flank steak, artichokes, potatoes) and loads of extras were available, including a very well-stocked pantry (preserved lemons) and other fresh vegetables, as well as fresh herbs and spices. A creative cooks playground.
Oh, and three professional chefs.
They helped a lot. One team created a neat side dish with sliced potatoes, baby artichokes and fennel. Another group found an interesting use for preserved lemon in a fresh herb chimichurri. Not one book was consulted. Not one recipe used. It was fun.
I like being creative in the kitchen, under the right circumstances, but for my everyday cooking, I love using recipes. Lately, there have been a couple articles (here, here and here) about doing without recipes, but I must say, I am a big fan. As a non-professional, I rely on recipes to help me get the proportions correct and I learn an incredible amount from following in someone else’s footsteps. I don’t think that makes me a bad cook, I think it actually frees me to explore my creativity.
When I read a recipe, I think about ways in which I can alter the dish to make it my own. Depending on what I have in the house, I will make substitutions or changes.
Ok, so where is the message here? Well, I would like folks who think they cannot cook to find a basic recipe from Simply Recipes and give it a try. I would like my friends who think they cannot cook, instead to realize that they can (and do) and start describing themselves in terms of how much they cook, rather than if they can cook. I think my friends who like to cook should jump-start their summer cooking by pulling out a new recipe and giving it a whirl. I think everyone should be able to identify as a cook, whether or not you know how to make something by heart. And I think, when given the opportunity, you should experiment in the kitchen, in whatever way that works for you. And I think recipes are good.