In which one tries to follow a New York Times recipe by the letter, but as ever, just ends up going rather rogue. Take that, Mr Bittman.

March 3rd, 2014, 9pm

It was 7°C. The breeze was light.

I have a dear foodie friend who obsessively follows recipes to the letter, and despite his being both half-blind and having a toddler circling around his ankles while he cooks, he’s somehow able to perform crazy dinner alchemy and transform all those heaps of instructions into delicious dishes, without fail, at least a few times a week.

Me, not so much. Sure, I’ve been trying (either valiantly or desperately, depending on how you look at it); since making good on my primary New Year’s resolution for 2013 (I Will Read the Sunday New York Times Every Week No Matter What), I’ve been compiling a fairly substantial clipbook of recipes, and periodically I’ll get brave and attempt one for dinner.

Wine helps with the bravery part, but not so much with the wielding-cooking-implements-effectively part.

It’s not that I’m a sub-par chef - please believe me when I say I’ve had many a memorable dinner party - it’s just that the Times’ recipes are generally fiendishly difficult, and I’m operating under the twin handicaps of being distracted by delicious in-progress food, and never owning a cookbook more complex than the old ring-bound Betty Crocker housewife’s guide that once belonged to my grandmother. If I wing it, it usually works; if I follow the instructions, mayhem ensues. Two weeks ago, Mark Bittman’s instructions for quinoa cakes somehow turned out a Quinoapalypse, like a spiral factory exploded on my kitchen floor. I’m wiser now: nothing with more than eight ingredients, nothing requiring more than three burners of the stove, and most importantly, no quinoa.

From-scratch marinara with garlic shrimp and roasted eggplant. Fidelity to the recipe: about 50 per cent. Goes nicely with Malbec.

David Wade said thanks.

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Jessica Schilling

Designer, editor, writer, usablist, tanguera. Not a guru. KD0VXE.

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