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On Ingredient Adaptations

Oh the great ingredient swap, so many of them done wrong, so many of them just bad.  Very often when we swap an ingredient we don't think about how it will play with the others in the pot.  We just know that we don't like X and would prefer Y, but Y doesn't always work in a dish for any number of reasons.  Sometimes we're better off just leaving X out than we are looking for an ingredient to use in its place.  Today I'm gonna talk about things that will work and why.

I use tomatoes in a number of dishes.  Canned tomatoes are a staple in my pantry.  If a recipe calls for fresh tomatoes and the tomatoes will be cooked in the dish; they can very often be swapped with canned.  My canned tomatoes of choice are petite diced.  Easy to stir into dishes, easy to pure for soups, stews, and sauces.  I even used canned tomatoes in my homemade salsa.  What if you don't like tomatoes or can't tolerate them?  Consider adapting the recipe by using a jar of roasted red peppers.  These can easily replace tomatoes in chili, bisque, tacos, even pasta sauce.  Canned peppers and canned tomatoes are similar in texture and similar in flavor profile, making them easy to exchange for each other in a recipe.

I'm gonna be honest, I'm not sure we can be friends if you're looking for ways around garlic. We're the people who always up what the recipe calls for, usually we double it.  If you must find a sub, as it somehow you ran out then I'd first suggest using powder, granules, or dried minced garlic.   After that, you can sub in chives, shallots or even a mild onion; it won't be the same, but it's doable.

Onions are a love-hate thing for a number of people.  Fresh onions can be replaced with dried onion flakes in a number of cooked meals.  If you want a milder onion flavor you can use shallots in their place.  In salads and dishes that use raw onion, you can also use green onions.  You can also use onion powder in place of onions in any number of things from soups, marinades, salad dressing, and sauces.  If you just hate them or they give you trouble, leave them out or experiment with using garlic in their place.

Fresh Herbs:
These are amazing if you grow them or readily have access to them at your local farmer's market or grocery store.  In most recipes they can be replaced with dried; 1 tablespoon fresh = 1 teaspoon dried.  I grow the ones we use the most and dry them at the end of the growing season.  You can also grow fresh herbs in a pot in your house.  There's also the option of preserving fresh herbs by freezing them in olive oil.  Simply put the herbs in an ice cube tray, cover with olive oil and freeze.  This is a great way to drop them into winter dishes.

Yes, fresh is best in many things, but there are options.  Of course, there is the age-old add a teaspoon to a cup of milk and let it sit a few minutes, which is good in a pinch but not my favorite option.  I prefer to use powdered buttermilk, yes you can buy this, just add it to the dry ingredients of your recipe and add the appropriate amount of liquid with the wet ingredients.  You can also take a tablespoon of yogurt and stir it into milk equaling the amount of buttermilk called for.  All of this depends on what the buttermilk is for.  If you're using it in a marinade I suggest string buttermilk powder into half and half or cream equal to the amount of buttermilk called for in the recipe.  You may need to experiment to get the right option for this swap.

Let me be clear, this is in cooking not baking.  I almost always eliminate sugar from things like sauces, salad dressing, and marinades.  I'm married to a man that will tell you "sweet and meat don't go together".  In an effort to keep the sweet from the savory in our home I usually just drop it, there are a few exceptions, but very few.  However, that can leave a little flatness in a dish so I compensate in other ways using things like vinegar, lemon juice, or a spice that has a sweeter undertone.  For example, before I was married there was always a little bit of sugar in my chicken salad spread.  Since being married that recipe has been adapted to use vinegar where the sugar once was.  What's more, I actually like it better.

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These are just a few of the adaptations off the top of my head.  I also own a great book called The Food Substitutions Bible.  This book has substitutions for ingredients, equipment, and techniques.  I have the second edition, but I think any edition you could get your hands on would be a good investment for your kitchen library.

If there is something specific you'd like to see on the list please leave a comment and I'll add it to the list. Later this week I will specifically address herbs and spices.