On being … worth trying or consciously taking a pass

 By Ingrid Sapona 

I enjoy cooking and I spend a few minutes looking at recipes on-line pretty much every day. I subscribe to some food newsletters (Food 52 and America’s Test Kitchen) and magazines, as well as NY Times Cooking. Though I don’t end up actually trying that many new recipes, they usually provide inspiration for dinner – and sometimes they provide unexpected comic relief. 

Some recipes remind me of a dish I’ve made before and loved, but that I’ve forgotten about. When this happens, I dig out my recipe and compare it to the recipe that jogged my memory. There’s almost always a slight difference so I then consider whether the variations make trying the new recipe worthwhile. 

More often than not I reject a recipe because of the cooking method used, not because of the ingredients or amount of prep work involved. Recipes that call for deep frying or grilling are always non-starters with me. (I don’t own a barbeque and grill pans just don’t give you the same flavour as actual grills.) As for deep frying… delicious but so bad for you and disposing of the used oil is a pain. (Yes, friends have raved about their air fryers, but I don’t have space for another special machine.) I’m also not keen on recipes that involve sheet pan roasting. Getting the oven temperature to 400+ and keeping it there for ¾ of an hour or more to cook things like vegetables seems a crazy waste of electricity. 

One thing most on-line recipes offer that cookbooks don’t is comments/suggestions from others who (one assumes) tried the recipe. Of course, not all comments are created equal. Every now and then there’s an especially helpful comment – like one about adjusting (downward) the amount of Wasabi used in this one chicken salad recipe. I ended up trying that recipe and, as the commentator suggested, I used about half the Wasabi called for. It was perfect and that recipe has become a favourite. I always find it funny when people comment about all the substitutions they made. Some people so make many changes they’ve basically created a whole new recipe. And I’ve noticed readers of the NY Times recipes can be rather pointed. One time, when a recipe called for 12 ounces of spaghetti, someone complained that the author should simply call for using a box of pasta because no one bothers weighing out spaghetti noodles! (Can you say oi?) 

The recipe sources I peruse often feature themes. For example, the start of summer often brings recipe ideas for picnics or camping (at least here in Canada), and at other times there are ideas for what to serve at kids’ birthday parties, and so on. And upcoming holidays always feature an outpouring of new takes on holiday classics (for example, turkey and pie recipes abound around Thanksgiving). 

My absolute favourite category of recipes are those revolving around ingredients coming into season. Though we can buy many types of fruits year around because they’re grown in different parts of the world and shipped all over, there’s no comparison between a locally grown field strawberry, for example, and one that’s been shipped from far away. Recipes featuring seasonal fruits and vegetables always prompt a visit local farmers’ markets where I can get produce picked literally the day before. Then, when I get home, I leaf though the recipes I recently printed out with a view toward making something with my local finds. 

That said, recipes often go by the wayside when local fruit is at its absolute peak because I’m just as happy to savour it au naturel. For example, I recently drooled over a watermelon and feta salad recipe. (That’s a combination my dad introduced me to when I was a kid.) But, when I contemplate using two pounds of my delicious local watermelon for a salad, I simply can’t do it, as the whole wouldn’t be better than the sum of its parts. I’ll enjoy the barrel feta on a lovely, crusty buttered toast for lunch sometime and I’ll savour the cold chunks of the sugar-sweet watermelon on its own for dessert. 

I’ll close with a reminder that summer’s fleeting and I hope you’re enjoying the fresh food that’s on offer in your area. Oh, and bon appétit! 

© 2023 Ingrid Sapona


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