Good morning. Recipes are sheet music. Cooks are musicians. They interpret the notes differently; they play the chords differently. Arrangements can change on the fly. My Boston baked beans taste different from Amanda Hesser’s now that I’ve made the dish a gajillion times. They’re both excellent, though. They’re both the same recipe.
That is very much to the good. It’s what makes cooking a creative act rather than a rote one.
Take my recipe for oven-roasted chicken shawarma, which lots of people make. (More than 17,000 readers have given it a rating on New York Times Cooking.) I’ve been making it for friends and family for nearly a decade. The other night my daughter made it for me. It was utterly fantastic, and utterly her own — more lemony than mine, a little warmer in spice, the meat cut a little differently — even though she followed the recipe exactly. I loved it. I’d love to taste yours.
So that’s my dinner tonight and, if you’re taking up the Well desk’s Mediterranean diet challenge this week, it could be yours too. (Sign up today and you’ll get a week’s worth of email guidance, shopping advice and recipes.)
As for the rest of the week. …
I love Melissa Clark’s recipe for easy lentil soup, especially when I make it even easier by cooking it in a pressure cooker: Reduce the amount of stock used to three and a half cups and cook on high pressure for 12 minutes, with a natural release. Serve with crumbled feta or a dollop of sour cream.