I’ve been reworking recipes to make them more local this month, which got me thinking about ways to improve recipes in general. Get tips below and try the tasty example: Butterbean Hummus. When you cook the fresh beans of summer for succotash, cook extra to make hummus.
If you pay attention, every time you do something you have a chance to do it better next time. I learned this at IBM, where we software developers dreaded the “postmortem” meeting after every project. We’d look at what went right, what went wrong, and how to do better next time. In the good versions of these meetings, we emphasized what went right, took steps to improve the process the next time, and avoided having anyone flee the room in tears.
In your own kitchen, you don’t have to worry about derailing your career when you look back at how a recipe turned out and think about how to make it better next time. Sharing the process with your children can help them learn to cook and learn to think at the same time! Here’s how to become a better, more efficient cook:
- Know your goals. I’m usually trying to get the best blend of thrifty, easy, healthy, and tasty. This month, I’m adding local to the mix and focusing less on thrifty.
- Keep track of what is important to your goals. What was the exact recipe you followed? Write in your cookbooks or keep a notebook in the kitchen. Use a food scale to track amounts quickly and accurately. Track your costs if you want to save money, sodium if the doctor says so, etc.
- Analyze your results. What went right? What went wrong? How did your results compare to your target? You might think about how delicious this batch of ice cream is compared to other ice cream you’ve made or enjoyed. I compare the price of a meal to my current average, always trying to get it lower.
- Adjust to improve. If the results should have been better in taste, texture, or appearance, note what the improvement is you are after and how you might reach that goal. For example, write “too sweet” and then note to cut the amount of sugar by a teaspoon. If that change throws off the texture next time, you can look for a different way to get the improvement you want. Write down any time-saving improvements too, such as assembling the ingredients in a different order so you can use (and wash!) one bowl instead of two.
Using these four steps can help you quickly improve your cooking skills, based on the goals that matter to you. I’ve been able to cook with local ingredients by using local whole-wheat flour instead of white whole-wheat, fresh hot peppers instead of dried cayenne or chipotle, local asiago cheese instead of parmesan, and honey instead of sugar. For the most part, the changes have been improvements. My try at a blueberry cornbread cake was a … learning experience.
Tomorrow, get ideas for high-protein desserts to round out the salad meals of summer.
Click here for Spicy Butterbean Hummus Recipe
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