Wednesday, May 2, 2012



Ab’s yoga teacher likes to say, “More isn’t necessarily better, it’s just more.” This is true if you are talking about the angle of your downward dog. If you are talking about whipped cream, it makes no sense at all.

Occasionally, I send someone a recipe that I have made and loved. I send it with stars and exclamation points scribbled in the margins. And occasionally, I hear back that it was bland, uninteresting, am I sure I sent the right recipe? I think this happened when I sent you the recipe for winter vegetable cobbler.

As I pondered this, bewildered by the failure, and questioning my taste, I realized that I don’t follow recipes. And I stray from the ingredient list, measurements, proportions, final instructions, so unconsciously that it doesn’t occur to me to add those addendums to the recipe before I mail it off. I assume everyone adds extra raisins and substitutes black olives for green. Who likes green olives?!

(I’m not as bad as the reviewer on Epicurious who, in writing about Turkey Apricot Meat Loaf with a Tamari Glaze, said, “Wonderful, I substituted lamb for the turkey and left out the apricots. Also didn’t bother with the glaze. A real keeper!” )

 Here’s what I did to that recipe. I used more turkey and more onions than called for. I added mushrooms and chopped kale because they are super immunity foods. And I doubled the glaze. But I didn’t review it. (I called this Super Immunity Loaf and while it wasn’t great, for as healthy as it was, it was NOT bad.)

There is a trend to my recipe alterations and it can be summed up as MORE. A teaspoon of cinnamon becomes a heaping teaspoon; a teaspoon of vanilla is a healthy splash. A cup and a half of chocolate chips? Use the whole bag! I am somewhat circumspect with baking. I leave the important ingredients (flour, baking soda) alone. But I never make a spice cake without at least doubling the spices. As written, can anyone even detect the cloves?? More lemon zest, more dried cherries, more pie filling. And always always always, more frosting!!

For savory dishes, MORE can be an attempt to make the dish healthier (Super Immunity Loaf) or more to my liking, sweet potatoes and raisins are a welcome addition to just about any soup or stew. Or it can be an effort to clean out the refrigerator. Two tablespoons of mashed potatoes and the left over Brussels sprouts will go great in the wilted spinach salad! That braised cabbage isn’t going to last another day, so toss it in with the scrambled eggs. (This may be what evolves from cooking-for-one.)

Frequently but with less dramatic results, recipe alterations involve a subtraction, again this is nearly unconscious. I don’t even see Parsley on an ingredient list. I haven’t added parsley to anything but dog food for as long as I can remember. Celery is slowly joining parsley and garlic isn’t far behind. Parsley, celery and garlic are commonly called for and rarely missed. If you are making garlic bread, OK, add the garlic, but two cloves in a Bolognese sauce are immaterial.

As for that whipped cream—it improves just about anything. If it is called for, add more. If it isn’t called for, serve it on the side. Sweetened, it enhances any dessert, hides flaws (cake too dry, pie too bland), helps healthy foods to pass as dessert (plain berries, poached fruit, jello made from juice), and the leftovers are agreeable in coffee the next morning. Savory whipped cream can take a tomato soup from just OK, to ethereal. Flavored with basil, it is a startling and delightful addition to corn and crab aspic.

I guess the take-away is, add more of what’s called for, except for the waste-of-time-three; more of what you want, super immunity foods; and more of what you like, whipped cream.

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