Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Substituting Ingredients

     This week's recipe allowed for some substitution of ingredients. As I mentioned, creative substitution is one of the core skills in the MCK.  Many of the magazines and cookbooks I use have absolutely fantastic recipes that call for things I simply don't stock in my kitchen, or can't find at my markets even if I did want to keep them in stock.  If you're like me, you'll also make substitutions to keep costs down. Granted, there are times when you simply can not make a substitution.

Case in point
     I'm not going to waste time listing the myriad substitutions for ingredients. There are plenty of web sites and books out there that can do it better and faster than I can. In my recipes, I'll definitely list any substitutions I think might apply. I will give you a few of the ones I use a lot, though:

  • 1 teaspoon dried herbs = 1 tablespoon fresh
  • 2-3 tablespoons bottled lemon juice = juice of one medium lemon
  • basil = most herbs (If this substitution ruins your recipe, don't come after me. Anybody who knows me knows that taking my advice comes with a certain level of risk.)
  • red onion=close enough to a shallot
   Sometimes you may end up substituting nothing in place of an ingredient. For dinner last night, the wife made a vegetable pasta bake that called for fennel. Neither of us is a big fan of fennel. We left it out and don't feel the dish was lacking for it.   If you're familiar with a recipe, try changing it up. Start with a basic tomato sauce recipe. Add garlic next time. Leave out some onion. Throw in some neck bones (my folks used to do that all the time). Play. Have fun.

     Don't be afraid to experiment with substitutions. The second time I made apple butter, I substituted Jim Beam for 1/4 of the water asked for in the recipe. Now my apple butter is in high demand. If you're good, I'll post the recipe. Some of my greatest successes in the kitchen have occurred because I decided to swap out a few things here and there to cover ingredients I was missing.  Exercise some caution, however. Don't go making more than one or two substitutions if you can help it. Change too much and you run the risk of completely changing the nature of the recipe. This isn't always a bad thing, but at least give the original recipe a try as closely as you can the first time. Most importantly, enjoy.


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