OK I have covered my thoughts on lots of different things here but I don't think I have given a cooking lesson so today you get my cooking philosophy.
I believe there are 2 kinds of cooks: artists and scientists.
Scientists follow the recipe exactly. My mom is a scientist. I laughed one afternoon as I watched her pull out her cookbook and study the recipe for a dish she had made at least once a week for most of my life. Scientists scrape the top of the measuring cup perfectly level before dumping in the flour and level out the liquids on the counter to make sure they are putting in exactly 1/2 cup of water before pouring it in. They do what the recipe tells them to and expect the experiment which is cooking to produce the results the book promises.
I am more of an artist. Recipes are nice but they are more like concepts. They produce inspiration but do not necessarily need to be perfectly followed. Measurements are approximates and can be eyeballed for the sake of saving washing more dishes. My mom and I are hilarious in the kitchen together.
Here are a few meals I would consider to be concepts. You take the original thought but you can go anywhere with it.
We had a couple favorite meals from Kenya that we have developed at home.
Rice and beans. Cook up rice, open a couple cans of beans (we like red but have used black as well). We cook up a chopped onion before adding the rice and beans then add your favorite seasonings, for us garlic and curry go in there and balsamic vinegar. Stir fry until warm and serve. delicious. I have also modified it using frozen veggie fried rice from trader joes, some sesame oil and rice wine vinegar with beans for a more Asian flavor or adding more Mexican spices and a little salsa with the black beans for a south of the border feel.
They serve a lot of cooked cabbage in Kenya which we just loved. It seemed like it must be more complicated than it looked but cabbage is pretty cheap so we just bought some, red and green, chopped it up and tossed in in the skillet with a little olive oil and salt and pepper and waited until it looked like Kenyan cabbage. Turns out it really is that simple. Just like we remember it.