Weekend Project: Close the Cookbook!

(Image credit: Apartment Therapy)

One of the themes that pops up here at the Kitchn is wanting to do more cooking by feel and with less need to follow exact recipes. Well, with all the fresh produce in the markets right now, this is one of the best times for it! This weekend, let’s leave the cookbooks on the shelf and just see what inspires us. What do you think?!

Cooking without recipes can feel a little scary at first, so let’s approach this like an adventure!

1. Start with the Ingredients: What are you craving right now? Go to the farmer’s market and do one full tour without buying anything. Then go back and pick up fruits and vegetables that sound good to you.

2. Decide on Your Dish: Many of these seasonal ingredients need very little help to taste amazing. How can you showcase them and enjoy them to their fullest? Does a hot dish or a cool one sound good to you right now? What else do you have in your pantry that you can add?

If you’re feeling nervous, think about cooking a dish that you’re familiar with so you can be confident in how it should taste and the basic method for making it.

3. Taste as You Go: As you’re cooking, take little bites at every stage. Does it taste good to you? What other seasonings could you add to get more flavor? Does it need anything else? Use what’s in your kitchen and let it inspire the flavors in your dish.

4. Enjoy!: Maybe it’s not perfect, maybe it’s not exactly what you expected, but it’s yours! (And as my fiance always says whenever I stress about a new dish, “We can always order take out.”)

Here are a few resources from our archives that might help!
Understanding Flavor
Salting to Taste
Brighten Dishes with Lemon Juice
How to Deglaze a Pan
How to Sear Meat

Do you have any tips, advice, or encouragement on how to cook without recipes?

(Image: Flickr member utnapistim licensed under Creative Commons)