Cooking is like anything else. Everyone has their quirks, their habits and their preferences, the amalgamation of which is their cooking type. J and I are the exact opposite when it comes to the way we move about and conquer the kitchen. Where I am rather lethargic, he is hasty; where I do things in a slightly arbitrary fashion, he is rigid and precise; where I leave a little wiggle room for recipe flexibility, he prefers to comfortably stick to the book (or website); and finally where I am willing to take some creative license, J is more comfortable sticking to cooking “best practices”. I believe that our cooking styles complement each other, but you won’t see us collaborating on many dishes. When we cook for friends or family J will make the appetizer and I will make the main dish, or J will make dessert and I make the salad.
This month we would like to demonstrate some of our differences and provide individual justification for why you should side with us.
Popping up all over Pinterest and food blogs alike are recipes substituting garbanzo or white beans for flour in sugary sweet recipes. [I use this only as a case study to prove my point and promise I won’t be referencing Pinterest again.] I have completely bought into the concept of swapping out ingredients that have no nutritional benefits for our bodies with ingredients that are rich in things our bodies need, but can’t seem to convince the people I love of its brilliance! From my near-professional baking roommate in college (now full-blown baking professional), to J, to my rather health conscious dad, no one aligns themselves with this glaringly beneficial cooking-style. Take a batch of chocolate chip cookies made with white processed flour, white processed sugar, and two sticks of butter. I can substitute these items for body-loving ingredients like oat flour, honey and coconut oil and they still taste wonderful, but I am also doing kind things to my body. Don’t get me wrong, I am not saying cookies are the new vegetable, but if you are going to enjoy a sweet why not make it beneficial? Substitutions also have a place in savory cooking. The other day I made a dreamy lasagna that captured all the smooth, warming creaminess of a béchamel sauce using white beans. The substitutions are endless and the sky is the limit! I don’t see how anyone disagrees…
Well let me be clear, the way C describes her substitutions for cookies is just fine, but as soon as you start adding avocados as a substitute in brownies I draw the line. I am 100% for clean eating, but if you are going to “bake” why bother altering essential ingredients for negligible affect? C said it herself, “cookies aren’t the new vegetable”. Stop there. If they aren’t, then why bother trying to improve their nutritional benefit when the end product still isn’t “healthy”. Now yes of course I would say still try to use unbleached flour and raw sugar and not use HFCS ingredients, but otherwise just let cupcakes be cupcakes.
Let’s address savory foods. This can get a little trickier, because substitutions aren’t always a bad thing, but my overall sense is that if you lose the integrity of the dish then don’t substitute. If you use walnuts in pesto instead of pine nuts I am fine with that because the finished product tastes relatively the same.
Overall I have learned that when I set out to cook a meal straight from the book (lately Jamie Oliver “Meals In Minutes”) I want to follow the recipe down to the last pinch of salt just to get a benchmark for the taste of that dish. Perhaps I will find that the sardines make it a little too salty for my taste then I will remember next time to slightly alter the ingredients to my preference. Going back to my picky eating roots, I remember requesting that my mom not add celery to tuna salad (I could give a thousand examples like this) because I didn’t think it would taste good. If I would have just let her follow a recipe I might have expanded my horizons earlier in life and at least learned what I liked or didn’t like. Don’t you feel a tiny bit of excitement when you unpack all the ingredients from the grocery bag? Or a sense of accomplishment when you pull that dish out of the oven knowing you created something straight from the directions?
Agree to Disagree