Step Away from the Recipe

Recipes are great. They can help you try new things, look at old ideas and ingredients in a new way or explore different cultures.

Some people think that a recipe has to be followed exactly, as if they’re going to be graded on the result.

Baking is a little different. Since chemistry is involved, which is not my best subject (I got a B- in high school), it’s probably a good idea to follow baking recipes closely at the start. Once you know how things work, you can start to improvise.

But cooking in general? Open yourself to experimenting. If you don’t have all the ingredients on hand, look at what you do have. No black beans? Use cannellini or garbanzo beans. No broccoli? Try subbing zucchini or green beans.

Herbs and spices offer endless possibilities. Fennel or dill?  I’ll pass. If a recipe calls for one, I think of what might be a good alternative that I enjoy. Try and taste. Try again and taste again.

And failure is fine. The greatest masterpieces were often built on the ruins of other attempts.

For inspiration, check out The No Recipe Cookbook: A beginner’s guide to the art of cooking by Susan Crowther.

The No Recipe Cookbook

Here is my recipe for tzatziki without the traditional dill. I hope you enjoy!

  • Twisted Tzatziki
  • ½ cup Greek yogurt (I love Fage 2%)
  • ½ cup light sour cream
  • Juice of ½ to 1 lemon
  • Garlic clove, crushed into paste with a little coarse salt (if this is too garlicky for you, add some garlic powder instead)
  • 1 T olive oil
  • ¼ cup chopped parsley
  • ¼ cup chopped cilantro
  • 1 ½ tsp chopped mint
  • ½ - ¾ cup minced Persian cucumbers*
  • 1 minced scallion
  • Pinch cumin powder
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Mix all the ingredients together. *I use Persian cucumbers because they are firmer and then I don’t have to go through the hassle of salting them and squeezing out the water. They add a nice crunch to the dip.

Buon appetito!