Cooking Myth #4: Quality Ingredients Are Too Expensive

May 21st, 2007 by Jeff in General Cooking

It is no secret that one of cornerstones to great cooking is the quality of ingredients. Much of what you learn stresses the importance of fresh and different ingredients. This in itself is not a myth. However, the fact that you have to spend a lot more to obtain these items could not be farther from the truth.

Professional chefs are no different than other artists out there. They are always trying to come up with something new, and for this reason you notice trends when it comes to ingredients. Years ago when you went to make chili, most of the recipes you found contained similar pepper arrangements. Today, if you counted all of the peppers in the top one hundred chili recipes, it would probably top three hundred different kinds of peppers.

For some reason, when people see others using exotic or hard to get ingredients, they feel their time tested recipes no longer match up. This simply is not true. In Italian cooking, many recipes have remained unchanged for hundreds of years yet you still find them being served in many of the new bleeding edge restaurants.

Now I am not saying that you should avoid quality ingredients. Of course not, but realize that you can still create great dishes using common ones.

Of course, you can also take the time to acquire these things on your own. I spoke with a family member of mine, discussing cooking as we often do and when I told her about some of my lamb recipes that contain rosemary, she remarked that she has had that spice in her rack forever and never found a use for it.

I explained to her the difference between dried rosemary and fresh. I talked her into buying it fresh at the market and then had her use it the next time she made chicken. She threw a couple sprigs in the cavity and was shocked at the aroma. Now she had to pay much more for the fresh rosemary than the dried and at first one would think this validates the myth. But afterwards I suggested that she buy a rosemary plant. It is an evergreen and will grow year round. It pays for itself quickly. Myth busted.

Now granted, if you want some exotic fruit that grows only on a remote Greek island for one month a year, you will be paying a lot for it. If this will not work for you, then move along to something else. There are many great recipes out there that require very basic ingredients found in any supermarket.

You can also limit how often you need these expensive ingredients. As I stated in myth #2, every dish does not have to be a masterpiece. Save those rare recipes for those special events where you want to show off something different.

In conclusion, even the most modest budget can create new and wonderful dishes. Don’t let lack of available ingredients deter you!

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