Just because I’ve been playing with cherries for nearly 4 days straight doesn’t mean I haven’t been cooking and feeding my husband and myself balanced meals.

I was making a roasted green bean and potato salad from a recipe yesterday (yes, I still use recipes sometimes even though I went to culinary school). I was thinking the viniagrette I was making needed something, and I was tempted to put mustard in it, perhaps a hit of smoked paprika, and some chopped fresh herbs.

I tasted the viniagrette without the additions and it was a nice simple dressing that I would have been pleased to have on a crisp bed of greens, so I left it be.

Turns out when I dressed the green beans and potatoes, and finished the salad, it needed the extra hit of flavor. No surprise really, since potatoes are bland and need lots of help to punch up their impact.

roasted vegetable salad

Doesn't it look good? It WAS good, but not great. (Photo from cooksillustrated.com)

Randy told me, “you need to trust your instincts, especially now.”

Yes. Yes, I do. It has always been a challenge for me to trust my instincts, and when I do it usually pays off.  Experiences like this are always a good reminder of that.

Back to the recipe issue for a minute. It may surprise some of my friends that I still use them. I’ve never been a cook who shuns recipes.  While part of my goal in attending school was to free myself from the constraints of recipes, it’s good to remember that (at least in the sources I use), those recipes were created and tested by people who have a lot more experience in the kitchen and knowledge of food than I do.  I can learn from them.  I still feel that way.

Even if I am planning a meal where I know I won’t use recipes, I’ll still take a few minutes to peruse my cookbooks and magazines for ideas or twists on a traditional dish that I may not have considered.

While confidence is critical, humility is just as important. I’ve been tuning into MasterChef lately (though not religiously), and one of the contestants is so confident in his ability that he can’t learn anymore –  not from his fellow contestants, nor from the accomplished chef judges. That’s a shame.  If you think you’re done learning, you end up drowning in your own arrogance.

That said, I guess the one criticism I have with recipes, especially now after attending school, is that they are WAY too detailed!  Randy reminds me that they are written for the lowest common denominator – the cook that I was when I was in my late teens and early 20’s.  He has a point, but now I find the instructions so maddening, that when I do want to use a recipe to guide my cooking, I have to rewrite it:  “Roast potatoes” instead of “cut potatoes into half-inch cubes, add oil, salt pepper, toss, put on  tray, blah blah blah.”

Sometimes,  I’ll simply write  a couple of notes about the ingredients and go with that, since I already know the technique.  That’s a nice freedom to have, but it took years of cooking to earn it, and clearly, I’m still growing and learning.

Bon Appétit!