Cooking Without Recipes

Cooking without recipes was one of the biggest and loudest things we heard in your Cure requests. We've been talking about stocking your pantry well, which is the first step in cooking without your nose in a book. Improvisation and new creations with familiar elements can only happen when your pantry is well-stocked. Look soon for quick master recipes that can be tweaked and recreated with basic pantry items both savory and sweet.

So, as we move forward with planning a meal and all this pantry work, the idea of cooking freely without having to depend too much on recipes is always in the back of our minds. Here, specifically, are the ways that some of you phrased your requests:

Krista:

How to improvise and use what is in the pantry vs. having to follow a recipe word for word.

Michelle:

Cook without recipes from anything in the house.

Chev:

To not be a slave to recipes and to feel comfortable just trying things and making things up.

Claire:

I'd like to learn what goes with what so I could be better at improvising.

Mariel:

To be more creative on my own. I'm really good at make recipes from a book or the internet, but I feel like I lack the knowledge of how to make things up on my own.

Zara:

I'd like to be better at pulling random things from my cupboard/refrigerator and making them in to something that tastes ok. (A lot of times I'll order out instead of using what I have because my fridge is almost empty and I can't think of how to make the stuff work - but occasionally I've succeeded and am much happier than if I pick up something cheap out.)

Carla:

Improvisation! I'm great at following recipes, but I want a better understanding of how things go together.

...and on and on. Cooking by instinct and improvisation is obviously a lifelong learning process, and we're still learning ourselves. It's also hard to teach it by specific tips and instructions, although we try to give ideas every day that help awaken inspiration and ideas.

But we'll be working on this still as we go forward. Do you have good ideas and steps that have helped you improvise more as a cook and be less bound to your recipe book?

(Image: [Kitchen utensils hanging below a spice rack with mint, caraway, tyme, and sage jars] (LOC), public domain from Library of Congress Flickr stream)