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Understanding recipes: 5 mistakes we make often
Understanding recipes: 5 mistakes we make often

How do you position yourself towards recipes? Do you invent them or do you follow them? And when you follow them, do they succeed? Not always, right?

What a disappointment when you have done everything right, point by point, doses and ingredients and times and temperatures. But in the end, instead of a delicacy, you turn out a mess in the negative sense of the term.

Reading a recipe, which is the first step in making the dish, is not at all easy. Because it depends on several factors. Not necessarily by whoever wrote it.

Even your authors, newspapers, blogs or reference sites, tested and guaranteed, can have a moment of defaillance, overlook a crucial step, when not throwing a trivial typo that sends everything to cards and forty-eight.

Not only that: in the world now saturated with publications of every order and degree concerning the kitchen, it is not uncommon to run into hasty translations and patched up copying at best. In a word, carelessness. Which for you translates into disaster in the kitchen.

So here are the 5 mistakes not to make when cooking the recipe of others. As far as possible: because a single rule, alas, does not exist. And without a good dose of sensitivity and insight it is not always possible to get by.

1. Look at the figures

Pizza in baking tin
Pizza in baking tin

Unless you are really experienced, taking a look at the photo is not enough.

I'll tell you about my working past: for years (years!) My main occupation in the editorial office was to observe archive slides with the lens, on the light table, trying to understand if that light green ring was of spring onion or leek, if that red fragment was fresh or dry chilli, if that roast was one kilo or 600 grams and what could have been, according to the external browning and color of the slice, the cooking time it had been subjected to.

A hard job. Which taught me a lot, of course, but it still does not protect me from dazzle when I limit myself, in fact, to hastily looking at the image and doing my own thing.

I add a detail: the photo that enchants is, very often, of foreign origin. French, English, even Germans create food services with much more than suggestive images.

But, behind it, there are French, English, German recipes (at least, different from our taste) and, in between, the translation. That if it does not come directly from Google Translator, we are very close.

If your photo (you can easily verify it in the credits) is of this lineage, the following points will have to be evaluated with double or even triple attention.

2. Don't dwell on the ingredients (and the title)

pizza ingredients
pizza ingredients

To get an idea of what you are going to do, it is essential to carefully read the list of ingredients. Because not always, in photos, everything is what it seems.

A golden color could be saffron, turmeric, curry. A chopped green parsley, coriander, chervil. Chunks of white fish, sea bream, monkfish, cod. A slice of rosé beef or lamb.

Of course, even the title can help you but, for some reason, many of my colleagues insist on calling the recipes with names like “Fantasy of this and that”.

Here, I invite you to look at this category with immediate suspicion. If a dish does not have a clear and exhaustive name, it probably will not even have a precise identity.

3. Read it in pieces

pan pizza, dough
pan pizza, dough

I'll be back to talk to you about me. To tell you that, when I write a recipe, I do it with a certain rigor, aware that my words must serve as a guide for those who will read them in the kitchen, the newspaper or the tablet open on the kitchen counter.

Although the authors do not always have the same regard (or precisely for this reason), reading the recipe from top to bottom before starting to make it will help you get an idea of how to proceed, it will allow you to identify the preliminary operations (washing, cleaning, cut, etc.), prepare and keep utensils and condiments close at hand, heat the oven, bring the water to a boil in time, and so on.

Not only that: a careful reading will make you catch any errors, even involuntary ones. Like an ingredient listed but forgotten in the process (it happens more often than you imagine) or vice versa.

The solution (unless the author is me and you, my friends, have my mobile number) will have to come up with yourself. And, trust me, it is better to find it before starting rather than racking your brains on where and when to do one thing or the other.

4. Crisis when faced with something

pizza pan, slice
pizza pan, slice

The photo immediately struck you. The title is the sum of everything you ever wanted on your dinner table. But there is a but.

In the sautéed, finely chopped garlic appears, and you can't even tolerate the smell. The delicious red sauce on panna cotta is a strawberry coulis, which gives you hives. The morsels on the skewers are rabbit bites, but your child doesn't want to know about eating Bugs Bunny.

You don't know how many people I've seen unwrapping a dish for details like this. Without thinking that instead of garlic they could use shallots, instead of strawberries, raspberries, or replace the rabbit with the more welcome chicken.

The watchword is: adaptation. Adapting a recipe to your tastes is not a crime, it is a personal interpretation. The first step to discover that, after all, combining ingredients and flavors is not difficult.

5. Think it will look exactly like in the picture

interior pizza
interior pizza

We all fell for it. And we all came out affected in our self-esteem. Because the recipe was excellent, well explained and detailed, perfect times and temperatures but, at the time of serving … well, it doesn't look like us at all.

Given that arranging food on plates is an art that you can gradually learn, it is also true that those in the photos are cooked, arranged, illuminated (and, not infrequently, photoshopped) to look their best..

Fortunately, the fashion, which was so in vogue until the eighties, of using glues, supports, varnishes, transparencies and other devilry things to make dishes more inviting is over.

Today, (serious) food photographers and home economists really cook, complete with salt (to say something you can't see).

Few artifices: the pasta is often very al dente, the vegetables and meats are polished with a brush dipped in oil. But it all remains perfectly edible.

Why, then, are dishes never like this for us? Because around that single saucer photographed they have been busy for a long time, at least in two or three, taking care of details and lights, adding a grind of pepper here, a flake of parmesan there, a salad leaf to give volume to the bottom of the plate, using tweezers with such a delicate hand that not even a professional restorer would.

We, on the other hand, can't wait to scofanare and pappare. As long as everything is hot, fragrant, fragrant.

And, trust me, it's better this way.

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