I was leafing through the new Nigella Lawson book the other day,
when I came across this recipe: Prosciutto-wrapped grissini. Grissini, as
you probably know, are breadsticks. The recipe listed two
ingredients - I will leave you to guess which. The
directions were one (1) sentence long. It was a long sentence,
because it instructed you not only to wrap the prosciutto around
the grissini (gosh! didn't see that coming!) but also to
"arrange them on plates".
Now I don't mean to knock Nigella, who admitted - in a headnote
5 times longer than the recipe - "I blush to call this a recipe."
The recipe struck a nerve with me because of a fear of my own -
that because I'm always working from cookbooks, I might forget how
to ad-lib even the simplest of dishes.
I like to think that perpetual recipe-testing makes me a
smarter, more cosmopolitan cook. But on those rare days when
I "throw something together" like normal folks, my results are
mixed. Sometimes I'm inspired. Other times I'm clueless.
The funny thing is that every
year or so,there's a book that claims it will liberate you from
recipes forever. Indeed, blogger Pam Anderson has
basically made a brand out of bookless cooking. It's hard for
me to believe these books sell...when I see them on the shelf I'm
instantly confused - wait - are you telling me I should buy
you? Or not?!
Like most people, I have definite flavor palette preferences
when I'm winging it. I like using Japanese soy and rice
products - rice vinegar, mirin, miso - whether or not I'm cooking
Asian food. I like creamy pastas. I'm comfortable
improvising stir-fries and pilafs. And often these days, I'll
find myself reaching for pistachios and mint and yogurt and saffron
faster than you can say "Caucasus".
What are your go-to flavors when you're not following a recipe?
Do you have a tried-and-true portfolio of fallbacks? Or do
you make it up as you go along?