Be a recipe renegade!
Run wild! Sure, if you've never made something before, it's a good idea to follow the instructions. But if the instructions look weird or include ingredients you really don't like, that's another story.
Recipes come from all-too-fallible humans. Take it from me that some of them can haul you right over the Foodscal Cliff. I speak from bitter experience.
Once, I made a coffee cake recipe that I thought called for an insane amount of oil. I put it all in anyway. Why? Because the recipe said to. The resulting product might have been a Martian's idea of a coffee cake but not mine. I can't tell you how it tasted. I just didn't have the nerve to try it.
If something looks way out of whack, it probably is. Not always, but often enough. And if there's an ingredient in the recipe you don't like, then use something else. Who's to stop you? If you don't like the results, just do it differently next time.
In this week's Food for Thought, Seattle Times food writer Nancy Leson and I mention Molly Stevens' recipe for Moroccan chicken in her book, All About Braising. Molly specifies a whole chicken for this dish but Nancy likes to use just thighs. I like thighs and wings. And more garlic and different olives. Try it — and feel free to improvise.
"I had these recipes that said do this, do that. Who MAKES these rules?"
– Emeril Lagasse