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Cooking By Heart


Everyone has a few dishes that are their standbys. The dishes that you can make without opening a recipe book (or looking up the recipe on your iPad), the recipes that are so familiar to you that you can make them in your sleep. For each chef this list is different. Mine is pretty basic. And the recipes that I use I am not sure I have written down anywhere although some I have shared here, forcing myself to figure out quantities. I measure quantities by eye or by feel, only sometimes by taste. I am the kind of cook that feels like she is conducting a symphony in the kitchen, and I try to be one with it. But I have children. Oneness and peace when I am cooking is not something that happens very often.

I can make my challahwith my eyes closed. Truth be told, most of the time on a Friday morning I have the dough rising before the sleep is even cleared from my eyes. I have made it so many times, it just gets done without me thinking about it.

Another recipe I make by heart is my Cranberry Cobbler. Open a couple of cans of whole berry cranberry, one can apple pie filling, pour into 9 x13, mix together flour, oatmeal, sugar, cinnamon and margarine, crumble on top and bake. Easy. Delicious. And quick.

If you make your ownspaghetti sauce - dinner is a cinch. Boil up a pot of pasta, pour over the sauce, add some cheese, toss a salad. There. Done - no need to look for exact amounts. Even easier is to use jarred sauce.

I also assemble a lasagna without referring to a recipe - layer of raw noodles, then ricotta, sprinkle grated cheese, pour marinara sauce, repeat four of five times, add a little water, cover, and bake for two hours. It never fails!

Scrambled eggs - even the newest of cooks can manage that without a recipe!

Chicken soup - mine changes week to week depending on the veggies that I have around. It always has the same basic ingredients though. Chicken breast, carrots, onions, and spices. Sometimes I add a parsnip in, or celery, peas, or zucchini, even a tomato. Lately I have started using the immersion blender in my chicken soup. Several of the younger household inhabitants would turn their noses up at the vegetables being served with the clear broth. Blend it all up together - even the chicken - and there has been nary a complaint. Add in some matzah balls (also made from memory) and everyone is happy.

When you cook certain dishes often the brain goes into autopilot - which is nice. I hate being in the middle of a recipe and wondering what the next step is, getting my books all dirty because my hands are none too clean while I thumb through to find that forgotten step. Looking up recipes takes time - and I want to get my cooking done quickly.

What recipes are your favorite standbys? Do you have the same trouble I do at passing these recipes on because it really is a pinch of this and a scooch of that, and a smidge of the other?