Friday, April 2, 2010

Variations on a standard recipe

Most recipes are adaptable, and some are endlessly adaptable. I could get all scientific and talk about ratios, but I won't. Just remember that a recipe can be a jumping-off point.

Case in point: last night's dinner. I have a recipe called Orzo with White Wine and Shrimp which has served me well over the years. Orzo is a rice-shaped pasta, and the dish is essentially a casserole with a tomato-white wine sauce, feta cheese, and shrimp. After making the recipe exactly a few times, I knew it well enough to make it without consulting the recipe. And once that happened, the substitutions started. No shrimp? Well, I have leftover chicken. Italian sausage. Kielbasa. Proscuitto. I've made vegetarian versions with peas, broccoli, asparagus. (Not all of them together, mind you.) I've used goat cheese instead of feta. Last night's was with broccoli and the standard complement of white-wine tomato sauce and lots of feta cheese. I had broccoli, orzo, canned tomatoes and feta cheese. It didn't matter that I didn't have any shrimp.

When it comes to making substitutions, feel free to get creative. Or just to use up whatever you've got lying around. But remember to make it a straight substitution--one kind of cheese for another, one kind of meat for another, or a vegetable instead of a meat, that sort of thing. You can't replace the pasta with artichoke hearts and expect to get the same results.

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