Encouraging substitutions in recipes

Just got a lovely email from former NYT food writer & cookbook author Mark Bittman advocating, in most cases, substituting when you don't have or can't eat a specific ingredient.
Nice attitude.
Also a use chart.

  • Posted by: Nancy
  • February 22, 2019


Smaug February 22, 2019
Well- the subs in the list are mostly fairly safe, but caution is called for. The herb substitutions are all going to be major changes to the flavor, depending on how important the herbs are in the recipe. Chemistry is important- for instant flavorwise pineapple/orange is not a bad sub, but pineapple contains enzymes that break down meat fibres and will prevent gelatin from setting, so that needs to be watched. Cabbage for bell peppers is just plain weird. As a general thing, there is no authority for how far you can sub without totally changing a recipe, or what is too much, so we need to be honest with ourselves- especially when critiquing a recipe that you subbed major ingredients. And you need to be cautious of your grounds- one example I remember from a recent recipe was that someone, evidently having read that Ancho chiles had a "smoky" flavor and were "raisiny or pruney" (both of which have a certain element of truth to them) decided to substitute smoked paprika and prunes for the chiles. This is roughly equivalent to throwing some grass and butter and a chunk of oak into the blender and expecting it to come out chardonnay- these descriptions need to be taken for what they are, which is vague indications of someone's impressions.
Emma L. February 22, 2019
Such a great resource—thanks for sharing, Nancy!
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