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My hobby is cooking. I didn’t realize it until I was showing a friend of mine how to prepare and cook a Moroccan Chicken Pie that it hit me. I really enjoy cooking. I will spend days in the kitchen making Indian or Persian or Moroccan dishes and invite my friends to a feast. My husband thinks I’m crazy, my friends think I’m an amazing cook, and I have the best time introducing my friends to new cuisines.
I own 52 cookbooks, and depending on what I’m cooking they are always my first source for recipes and information, especially when cooking ethnic dishes. I used to do online searches, looking for recipes and often I was left totally confused with what I found. There are all sorts of sites that are dedicated to recipes. Some of the larger sites have the ability for members to leave ratings and comments. These types of sites have become very popular over the past few years. There are even forums dedicated to food talk that include links to recipes and member comments.
Here’s where the problems arise. Do a simple online search for “Dilled Green Beans”. You will see over 270,000 results. These recipes are on all types of cooking sites from large established recipe sites to individual blogs. How to choose? How do you want to invest your time, energy and money? Will you choose the recipe that calls for 4 lbs. of green beans, 16 heads fresh dill, 4 cups vinegar, 9 cloves of garlic or the one that calls for 2 lbs. of green beans, 4 cups vinegar (interesting as this is the same amount of vinegar used for double the amount of green beans in the other recipe), 2 cloves of garlic and 4 heads of dill? (For half the amount of beans this recipe should call for 8 heads of dill and at least 4 cloves of garlic.) Here’s another question for you – exactly what are these Dilled Green Beans supposed to taste like? Where can you find a reliable recipe?
Red Velvet Cake is another online recipe search disaster waiting to happen. There are over 750,000 Google results for a search of “Red Velvet Cake Recipe”. Now, take a close look at these recipes. You will see Red Velvet Cake recipes that include in their ingredients 2 heaping teaspoons of cocoa to recipes that call for no cocoa at all. The reality is that Red Velvet Cake is, and has always been, a chocolate cake. How can you bake a chocolate cake without using cocoa? Again, how do you decide which recipe to expend your time, energy and money on?
I stay far away from food sites that offer member comments and reviews as some of the reviews are of no help, and actually add to confusion. A few years ago I did an online recipe search for Turkey Mulligatawny Soup. I landed on a well revered food forum. This site also allows for member comments. I was shocked to see some of the comments made about this recipe. People who didn’t have the spices called for in the recipe chose to cook the soup leaving them out. Turkey Mulligatawny Soup is a curry-flavored soup. If you leave out the curry and garam masala spices you have no curry flavor. You have no idea how the recipe is supposed to taste. No wonder they didn’t like the result.
This food site also reviews a cookbook every month. Some of the members prepare recipes from the cookbooks, changing ingredients, or again, leaving them out altogether, and then declare their efforts unsuccessful. This is not helpful information, and certainly is unfair to a cookbook author.
There is a simple way to ensure that you’re going to get a good result when searching for a recipe online. Focus on food sites that use recipes that have come directly from cook books, and make sure the site has given a link, or mentioned the cookbook, or chef, where the recipe originated. The next thing to look for is a site where the recipes have actually been prepared. There are a lot of online food sites that supply recipes, but no indication that they have actually prepared the dish. A valuable online food site will have actually prepared the recipe and will offer helpful cooking tips directly related to the recipe.
write by Allison Leigh Downey