The Plan to Eat Podcast

#33: New York Times Cooking: No-Recipe Recipes Review

September 21, 2022 Plan to Eat Season 1 Episode 33
The Plan to Eat Podcast
#33: New York Times Cooking: No-Recipe Recipes Review
Show Notes Transcript

Join us this week for a review from Riley on The New York Time Cooking: No-Recipe Recipes cookbook! Find out who would enjoy this cookbook, the pitfalls of no-recipe cooking, and see if this book is right for you!

Find the No-Recipe Recipes Cookbook here

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I'm Riley and I'm Roni. And this is the plan to eat podcast, where we have conversations about meal planning, food, and wellness. To help you answer the question what's for dinner. 

Roni: Hello, welcome to another episode of the Plan to Eat podcast. Today, we are doing a special episode where Riley is going to tell us about a book that she read related to no recipe cooking. We are gonna learn a little bit about the book and what recipe, what, what Riley gleaned from this recipe book

Riley: Yeah. So the title of the recipe book is. New York times cooking, no recipe, recipes, which is funny to me that there is a cookbook in print. That is a, that is a recipe book about not cooking with recipes. But when I saw this book in a bookstore, I got really excited about it because I actually loved to cook without a recipe.

It feels like a fun [00:01:00] and creative thing to do in the kitchen. I like making stuff up. sometimes there's a downside, which is that I can't recreate it if we really love it. And sometimes the downside is that it wasn't very good. But you know, just like putting flavors together and using up what we have at home, that feels really great to me.

But I understand that could be incredibly intimidating to other people. Um, you know, I asked you even before we recorded, like, does this sound like a scary topic? And I think that for people who are not comfortable in the kitchen, it probably is. Because that already feels scary. And then having no, have not having a recipe is like another level of intimidation.

But the one thing I'll say before we even get started about this recipe book is that. It feels a bit more like a guidebook or a textbook textbook. Isn't the right word, but a guide for learning how to cook without recipes. So in the beginning it talks about what to keep in your pantry or what this author keeps in their pantry.

This is by an author called or named Sam Sifton. And so it kind of [00:02:00] guides you through it and then every recipe, not every recipe, but a lot of them have a tip about doing it. And then modification, if you don't have the same ingredients, To give you a little bit of, a little bit more information about the book it's broken down into breakfast, different kinds of meats, sides

and then every recipe is given a list of ingredients with no amount, a brief set of instructions, and then some serving tips, or like maybe a little prep intro about like how this person came up with the recipe. So that's a little bit of my intro to the book.

Roni: Who do you think that this book would, uh, benefit the most? Like. Think was it, it was intended for, was it intended for these people who find no recipe cooking intimidating or somebody more like you who already enjoys no recipe cooking?

Riley: I would say that I find the book delightful. like, I even wrote in some notes that I made about it, that might be my new favorite cookbook because. Every dish looks so delicious, but it also comes with these great modifications. So like, I can follow this, [00:03:00] like this it's a set of ingredients. It's not even, amounts it.

Doesn't tell me how much to put so I can really customize it to my flavor preference. There's a zitti dish that has. Cinnamon in it. And I just, my first thought was, oh, that sounds interesting. And I probably would go light on the cinnamon at first. And if I loved it, I'd go heavier. Or maybe I love cinnamon already.

And I'm all in with the cinnamon. Um, but it's really up to you to figure out how much of everything goes in. I would say that this recipe book gets probably for someone who. Is moving into their kitchen. Like they're probably not brand new. They're starting to feel a little bit more comfort in the kitchen.

And maybe they're starting, they're wanting to cook without recipes or wanting to kind of test themselves. Like, can I make a recipe taste good without following someone's strict guidelines. And then I think this book really teaches you how to kind of take like latch onto your own, like. What's the word I'm looking for?

It's really teaching you to lean into your own creative abilities and your [00:04:00] own. Like, you can make every recipe taste the way you want it to taste or, you know, spicy or not spicy sweet or not sweet. But more cinnamon or no cinnamon, you know, you can really lean into what you like and what your family likes.

So I really like that you can just modify to your heart's content. But I would say it's probably not for somebody who's brand new to. So if that, hopefully that answers your question in a really ly way.

Roni: Yeah. So then is that, do you feel like that's overall, the purpose of this book is to help people lean into their own like creative desires when it comes to cooking? Or is there a different purpose that you got from. Reading this.

Riley: Do you think I could read you the intro to the book?

Roni: Sure.

Riley: So Sam Sifton, as an editor at the New York, And in particular as a founding editor of New York times cooking our digital cookbook and cooking site, I spend a lot of time bringing together cooks reporters, chefs, and critics to lay out strict, strict instructions for how to best prepare specific dishes.

These recipes take on a particular form, a list of ingredients and measurements that are [00:05:00] followed by step by step instructions for how to use them to result in a finished dish. I think of these recipes as sheet music, a form of notation that allows home cooks to recreate the cooking of others. Just as a printed cord chart, allows Mike from Shaboygan to play the Beatles repertoire in his den passively well, passing away.

Well but I just don't cook with recipes and I am not alone. Indeed. Cooking without recipes is a kitchen skill. The same as cutting vegetables into dice or flipping an omelet. It is a proficiency to develop a way to improve your confidence in the kitchen and makes the act of cooking fun.

When it sometimes seems like a chore. So I would say that this person probably wrote this book for people who, uh, are pretty comfortable in the kitchen. You know, I think of somebody who's learning how to play the guitar and like, you're gonna need sheet music for a while, unless you are just a Savan right.

But so probably not for an novice. Um, so to me, I think that is probably where, like what this book is for. I think it's a really creative way to [00:06:00] push yourself into being a better cook, a better home. 

Roni: I really like that comparison of comparing it to a musician, because just like you said, uh, when you're first learning to play an instrument, you do need to. Follow instructions. You need to follow your sheet music so that you can learn different notes and how to play them. But anybody who has ever learned how to play an instrument, then, you know, at once, you know, some basic things, you can start creating your own rifts, you know, like you can start like making things up yourself, even if they're like that didn't really sound that great.

It is a, it's a really good comparison to then compare that to cooking, to be like, you might initially need to start out making recipes and learning, How to weigh things, how to measure things, what this sauce looks like. So when it's reduced and all that kind of stuff, and then once you get some of those basics down being like, okay, like maybe I can figure this out.

Maybe I can figure out how much of this spice that I wanna add or how much salt I need to add. And, uh, that's a great comparison. [00:07:00] I like that a lot.

Riley: Yeah. It's why I knew I had, when I glanced over it, I it's why I knew I had to read it because it was just so perfectly written. Yeah, just to add onto what you just said. It's like knowing what flavors even taste good together or feeling brave enough to put things together that may not normally go together.

Um, And just feeling like you can try because it's no harm in trying. And I think that for a lot of people who are new to the kitchen, that can feel very daunting, cuz like what if I ruin it? Instead of feeling like, yeah, but what if it's amazing and maybe that's a difference of personality and less about, like knowing how to do it or not.

But I think, I don't know to me that just, it feels very fun. I, I very rarely follow a recipe to the. Because I'll get to the end and I'll be TA you know, I'll taste, you know, and oh, this, it needs more salt or, uh, oh, it needs more spice or this could really use some kind of. Acid , um, you know, something like [00:08:00] that.

Um, and so then I'll just modify it until I serve it. And then I'm like, okay, like I thought it tasted good. So it was like tweaked until I liked it. And so I think that's what I love about a no recipes. Cookbook is that that's the whole thing is that it's literally whatever you want it to be. And there's nothing wrong with it, like, because you made it taste good the way you wanted to.

Roni: Yeah. So in your own personal life, when do you think, would you use, um, the recipes or recipe ideas, uh, from this cook?

Riley: So the, the premise of the book, and I think the author tends to cook with no recipes at all. They have a very well stocked pantry. They cook from those things that they have at home. You know, in theory, that sounds a little expensive to me because I think it sounds like, uh, keeping a well stocked pantry.

You, you know, you start and it's expensive. And then after you started, it's less expensive because you already have all those items on hand. Probably isn't as expensive as I like my initial reaction to it was of just thinking like, man, I have to overhaul my [00:09:00] pantry. I think the point is really to go to your own pantry and look at what you have and be like, what can I make out of this? So to me, it is a supplement to a meal plan, like, okay, this night is gonna be just like a create your own night or maybe it's a night when I.

Just need to throw something together because we're running behind and people gotta eat around here, you know? or maybe it's night when I'm feeling really like just, I need to be creative, something like that. Using up pantry staples, staples, it's a meal like that. I kind of look at it as like back pocket recipes.

It's kind of like, uh, I've got some broccoli. We have friends over for dinner. What am I gonna do with it? Well, oh, okay. I just like make it a cheesy broccoli. There is a delicious looking cheesy broccoli bacon recipe in this cookbook. And I don't know that I would've thought to do that cuz I kind of get into ruts with vegetables.

Like I personally find broccoli is something that has to have a good recipe. . And so just kind of like, instead of roasting it, well, [00:10:00] I mean, I roast it or, but what can I do with it to make it special? Um, or maybe I saute it and I mix in the cheese and the bacon and like, I, you know, it's all like this gooey delicious side dish.

So I think that it's kind of, it's like, Knowing you have something to fall back on of like, well, I'm not afraid of not having a meal plan tonight, or I'm not afraid of not knowing what to do with something, cuz I can wing it. And this kind of the idea of like, let me just make something out of nothing.

I, I really like that. So that's when I'd use it. And some of like probably as a supplement to my meal plan, uh, or maybe even when I make my meal plan and I look at what I've got on hand and think, Let me like I've got black beans and I've got rice, but instead of just kind of some lack luster, black beans and rice, there's a delicious recipe here for this kitchen sink, rice and beans.

And it's pickled peppers and it's BR bacon and it's black beans. And it's like, all these things mixed together. That sound way better than if I was just like, oh, it's blog, Queens and rice, you know, um, and so that, that's kind of the format. I think when I [00:11:00] would use.

Roni: Okay. So in relation to what you were just saying, Um, that you view these as like back pocket recipes, which I really like, but how would you, if this is your preferred style of cooking, why do you need to meal plan or do you need to meal plan at all?

Uh, do you need to use plan to eat if you're somebody who cooks without recipes, what's your feeling on that?

Riley: Maybe it's my personality. Which is one that certainly loves a plan. Um, to me it would, I think because of the phase of life, I'm in going to the pantry at five 30 and being like what we gonna make. And we just like wing, it sounds daunting. And while I am very comfortable with cooking and comfortable in the kitchen and comfortable with like taking a recipe and tweaking it till I like it.

That to me does not sound good. That to me sounds like. A disaster waiting to happen, but I'm also cooking for other people. It was just me. I think that'd be a different pro. It'd be different since I'm cooking for other people. I think,[00:12:00] you still need a meal plan because I can look at my pantry items and make a meal out of pantry staples, but plan it. Tonight, we're having something with the lemons, something with the pasta, buy some Parmesan . So then I'm still going to the store and getting at least a supplemental ingredient that would amp it up. You know, I'm using what I've got on hand. Uh, I'm making a really delicious meal, but I'm making sure that I've got some things like, you know, I, we're not just people that will only eat a pasta dish.

Like we definitely want a protein with that pasta here. Or we want a green veggie with that pasta. And so maybe like it's taking my meal plan and going 75% of it is pantry staples. And 25% of it is things that we need to buy to supplement. So that's kind of how I, that's how I look at it. I, I think it's a supplement to a meal plan.

I think you'd still need a grocery list. I think you still need to look at, at your week and figure out what nights. Can you spend 45 minutes wing it versus a night when you need 10 minutes to wing it, which maybe is that rice and beans night versus some kind of [00:13:00] Boase and Zeti, you know, whatever it is.

So that's kind of, that's kind of how I'm, that's how I'm viewing these recipes. Um, I think, you know, the feeling I'm getting from the book is that it is like every night is just a, is just what can we make, which feels very artistic and very, on the fly. And there are people out there like that, uh, and by all means like, go for it.

Um, I just think I'm much more of a planner. And so that feeling of getting to five 30 and being like, oh no, what are we making? Um, That would feel too daunting for me in the phase of life that I'm in. So

Roni: Yeah, I think one of the great things about baking a meal plan is that then you are planning your meals around what your other activities and the things on your schedule are. And so I agree with you that, like while I think this could be good every once in a while, it does seem to me like, there's really, there's like a certain phase of life where this would be really not applicable to, And like potential in general, when I feel like I have read, certain cookbooks there, there's a [00:14:00] part of me.

That's like, okay, well, you're a professional chef. So of course, like this makes sense to you and you, you spend your life devoted to food. So for you, like making things on the fly or, you know, just like putting flavors together is very easy because it's intuitive for you. Whereas if this is a process that you're actively learning how to do, there's an element of it.

That's like what's gonna take me a lot longer. To figure out how to make this recipe taste good, because I'm gonna have to taste it and retaste it and taste it and retaste it after you make every little addition, you know, whereas whereas somebody who has devoted their life to food might only have to make two little tweaks to recipe.

Whereas I'm gonna have to make 20 tweaks to my recipe to make it taste good in the end, you know?

Riley: Another, you know, another thought that came to mind about cooking with no recipes is. Eventually you will want to log something away. 

Roni: Yeah. 

Riley: There is this, um, there's this pizza dish I made for my now husband at the time we were dating. So that was probably seven or eight years. It was homemade pizza.

I know I put pears [00:15:00] on it. I know I put prosciutto on it. And beyond that, I cannot tell you what was on it. And it's because I just made it up and it was like, what? This sounded good. And for the last seven or eight years, I've regretted. That I don't have this as a staple meal in our home, because in my mind that was the best pizza I've ever had in my life.

My husband still talks about it. It was so incredible. And so I think the aspect of something, a tool like plantee paired with no recipe cooking, is that at some point, even if it's just a list of ingredients, because that's all this cookbook is, it would be lovely to have a list that says pizza dough, olive oil, Rosemary.

panchetta pears. Like if that's all it was, I could totally recreate that. Um, but because I know myself, I, I probably added a ton of other things and I can't. And so, at some point these meals are things I think you're gonna wanna write down. And so, and I'm really bad about that. That's the, that's like the, my artisticness of like, I'm just gonna wing it.[00:16:00] 

Um, you know, we've talked to like Debbie from EF effortless kitchen, like she is tedious and meticulous and detailed and she will make up her recipe and write down every, no every ingredient. Every amount. And I, there's some sort of envy in me because that's not who I am. That regrets it when I make something delicious and I'm like, oh no, how much was it?

What was it? How do I recreate it? So anyway, so I think that at some point you're gonna wanna write 'em down if you loved it. And so using a tool like plantee to keep it digitally and access it from anywhere it's really, really helpful.

Roni: That feels like a semi drawback of this style of cooking. What do do you feel like there are other drawbacks to the no recipe cooking that you could come up with?

Riley: I don't know. I. I'm not sure nothing is coming to mind that that's pretty substantial in my opinion, it's not being able to recreate it. I think that my concern over spending more money by buying like somebody else's staples list, I think is a concern I have particularly about this book is cuz he de uh, this author [00:17:00] does list. Like an incredibly long list of staples items that they keep in their staples in their pantry.

Um, and I think it would be incredibly expensive to follow this, but also it would be unwise to follow it and buy things that, you know, you don't like, you know, like I look at this list and anchovies comes up quite a bit and I struggle a bit with anchovies. And so for me to buy anchovies, Isn't is not wise because I'm gonna never use them.

I'm gonna avoid them. And so I think that, I think that there's this element of, like, you could spend a ton of money to like, try to format your life in this format, in this way of cooking. And then kind of put yourself in a hole of like, oh no, I don't know what to do with this. I don't like oyster sauce or, you know, whatever the ingredient is.

Who knows, like maybe you don't like tomatoes and caned tomatoes can be, it could be a staple of this kind of cooking. Um, so you might get yourself into a, a bad spot. I mean, I think you can go into it, you know, with wisdom of like, okay, I don't like this and don't buy it. I, I just think I, I [00:18:00] have some concerns over spending a whole lot more money.

By doing this because to me, I'd wanna have a very full pantry to go all in with this kind of cooking. Um, because otherwise you'd end up with kind of some, like, not as flavorful meals.

Roni: Okay. So as somebody who already likes no recipe cooking, what are some of the things you learned or maybe even just like the number one thing you learned from this book?

Riley: Okay. So I've, you know, been reading this book, uh, and I recently had family in town and my sister-in-law who is an incredible cook and everything. She touches turns to gold. She's just kind of one of those people. And she and I were talking and she was asking me about the way I cooked something. And, you know, she said, oh, I didn't even know you could cook it that way.

And I. If you don't know the right way to cook something, can you be wrong by cooking it in the way that you wanna cook it? Um, now maybe some five star chef culinary trained professional is gonna say that that is incorrect because certain [00:19:00] things need to be cooked a certain way. But I think that there's this, it's easy to get stuck in the right way of cooking something and not branching out and finding a way to cook it that you like.

And so I, I, it just something that stuck out to me from that conversation and from this cookbook is like, I, there's a lot of freedom in cooking this way because you can make things however you want to. And if it tastes good, is it wrong now? Obviously, if it's bad or undercooked or whatever, or if it fails, like you're making a cake and it didn't rise and it failed, but obviously that, that didn't go well.

But for, for savory food in particular and not for baking, cuz that's such a science, like, you know, like a dinner feels more like a creative experience than like baking where something has to be measured so perfectly. Uh, I'm just thinking, I don't know. I think that's what came to mind is like, if you don't know the right way, can you be wrong?

So can you cook things and like be brave and branch out and make things in this unique way and if it tastes good, you won, you didn't fail. Um, so I think that [00:20:00] this book kind of promotes that of. Just mix stuff together. Just put flavors that you like together. And if it turns out great, then you did the right thing. even if they don't quote unquote, go together. 

I would say probably explore this kind of cooking before you buy a recipe book like this, or maybe buy this book as your intro to this kind of cooking. Because there are so many recipes in here that stand out to me that I can't wait to make. There's some black bean tacos. There's several broccoli recipes.

There's weeknight fried rice, speedy Sunday gravy with ziti chicken Pinella, a meat sauce and eggs, um, kitchen sink, rice and beans, which I mentioned earlier. There's so many recipes in here that sound incredible to me that I can't wait to make. So it's probably your, if you wanna start cooking or pushing yourself creatively in the kitchen, there's probably a really, honestly a really great book to.

Because it gives you enough of an outline, that it could start to help you feel more confident in like a launching point for doing this more and more on your own

Roni: Well, that answers the next question I was gonna ask, which is when would [00:21:00] you recommend this book to somebody? So

Riley: yesterday. Yeah. Um, yeah, I, I, uh, I love the book and it's got beautiful photographs in it, which make you wanna eat everything. So, uh, yeah, I, I was pretty impressed. Um, this book has actually sat on my shelf for quite a while. And, it was one of those books I got so excited about when I saw it in the store, looked at it and then I knew we were gonna come back to it on a show.

And so, uh, when I picked it up and have been looking back through it, I'm like, man, why did I ever put this on the shelf? I should have this out. And, uh, should make some of these things. 

Roni: Well, I think we should end our episode today with a recipe. Talk about maybe one of the recipes from that book. If you wanted to highlight one, that you are eager to try and wanna tell us.

Riley: Yeah. So I've mentioned it twice. Now, let me, let me open it up to it. The, what is it? Kitchen sink, rice and beans. If I can find it in the book. Yeah, there we go. This recipe, uh, is rice. Okay. This is just the ingredient list. So this kinda give you an idea of how the book is formatted.

It's rice [00:22:00] bacon, pickled peppers, shallots, garlic, cilantro, cumin, orange juice, can beans, bread, butter, hot sauce and lime. I, you know, I was, I, just think it's a, it sounds delicious. A delicious way to spice up. Rice and beans. And rice and beans is something that so many of us have in our pantry. Or like just in our, you know, I don't even know why rice and beans pile up.

I, I'm not sure, but they end up in my pantry quite a bit. I think they're, they are things that we eat with things. Um, but this meal is, those are the mains. And so I think that when I first read this recipe, when. When it adds the pickled peppers, into the skillet with the bacon, I was like, I would never have thought to do that.

Um, so it's, again, it's one of those like reminders of like, okay, , it's putting things together that you wouldn't normally, that that can just sing. And so I'm guessing that like acid of those, like pickled banana peppers could be just really delightful. Also I think, uh, bacon and, uh, [00:23:00] bacon and rice together is not something I would've thought of.

That sounds kind of random. Uh, and then, you know, it's all these things that you probably have at home, even the orange juice. I just think about how so many times that our house will end up with an inch of orange juice left in the carton. Because maybe we used it for something or we wanted it for a, you know, like having friends of, for brunch or something.

And it just doesn't always get consumed all the way. And so just being able to use that last little bit of orange juice in a recipe like this. Just sounds really, really good. So I can't wait to make this one I'll report back on how it turns.

Roni: Yeah. So give me a little rundown of how you, um, combine all of these ingredients together. I'm having a hard time picturing it.

Riley: Yeah. Sure. Um, so I'll just read the instructions, make a pot of rice, chop a few strips of bacon and add to a skillet with say pickled peppers. I like banana peppers, shallots or sliced shallots, chopped garlic, mint, cilantro, ground goin salt, and a splash of orange juice cooked down into a kind of syrup.

Tip a black, uh, tip a can or two of beans with their liquid. I like black beans, [00:24:00] but kidney beans would also work then mix and allow the flavors to come together at a slow simmer toast, the bread and butter serve the beans of a rice with a hot sauce and a squeeze of lime accompanied by butter toast, delicious every time. So, yeah. So while we're here, I'll actually go ahead and read you the modification for this recipe because, I, I love that every recipe, a lot of the recipes comes with a tip with a tip or a modification to kind of give you some. Here's what you can do if you don't have this ingredient. So the modification, you can replace the bacon with ground pork or sausage and make it without meat or make it without meat.

Use pineapple or mango juice in place of the orange or no juice at all. You can lose the banana peppers or use jalapenos in place of them. Just load on the hot sauce shallots. So fancy use an onion instead, or the whites of the scions from the brat back of the crisper. Like, it just basically took every ingredient and said you can replace it with something else.

Um, so I, I just think that that recipe sounds great, but also the modifications make it sound so accessible for whatever you have at home.[00:25:00] 

Roni: Yeah, it sounds yummy. I, I think you should invite me over when you try it.

Riley: I, I will, let's do it. Can't wait.

Roni: okay. Excellent. Well, thank you, Riley, for sharing about your book and your learnings. We will also be doing another episode where I teach you about a book that I, a cookbook that I read. So you can look forward to that in the future as well.

Riley: Thanks so much.