Recipe Testing Is An Art
People always ask me how I put a cookbook together? Questions like, “do you dream about recipes?” “Do you experiment when you cook, is cooking a science?” “You must have a file cabinet filled with recipes!”
For my new cookbook, Vegan Family Meals, Real Food For Everyone published on June 14th it was relatively simple to choose the recipes I want to share. This book is about cooking delicious accessible vegan recipes for whoever your family is. Testing recipes can be a timely and meticulous process. The idea behind testing a recipe for publication is to make sure that what ends up in the hands of a home cook, whether expert or novice is absolutely doable and the end result is the dish in the title or the photograph. In the last few years, as the ext. chef of Vegetarian Times magazine, I have had the opportunity to hone my skills in recipe testing and writing. If I had no other responsibilities other than writing cookbooks, I would have single handedly tested all the recipes for Vegan Family Meals. Nevertheless, since I oversee the operations of two restaurants and I am a hands-on-mom, I need help. That’s where my amazing recipe editor and tester comes in.
Here’s an overview of how the recipes for Vegan Family Meals were developed and tested:
IDEA: To answer the questions I posed in the first paragraph, I don’t dream about creating recipes, but often food is prominent in my dreams. When I am in test mode it is a science and my file cabinet is my head. I just think recipes up: I’ve already cooked it; I ate it somewhere else at a friend’s house or in a restaurant; I remembered something I ate years ago; I saw it in another book and thought I’d make it my way; it’s a recipe in my restaurant RFD’s repertoire.
DEVELOP: Write the ingredients in the right order and the instructions in detail. I don’t find this hard but it is demanding and exacting process to figure out all the components of a recipe. My job here is to convey to my best ability my experience of preparing the recipe with all the little details that will end up in the recipe instructions.
MY TEST: I make it in my home kitchen. Sometimes, it’s a slam-dunk and it is perfection the first time. Sometimes, it can take several more times, to get it just right. Some recipes, I don’t cook because I’ve already cooked many times, or I know the idea is solid.
SEND TO RECIPE TESTER: My pass at writing the recipe, which includes my test, notes from when I cooked it. If I didn’t cook it, my notes for what I am looking for – what I want the end result to be. Sometimes, I’ll send my prepared dish to my tester along with the notes.
FINAL RECIPE TESTING: My tester takes the recipe from my style and puts it in the desired style that the publisher wants. We then review each recipe step by step. Then my tester tests each recipe in her kitchen. We get together over several dishes and eat. Yum! We review each step, notes that were made in the preparation and cooking process. For instance, add a little more of this spice, or let’s make the cuts of the carrots bigger, it wasn’t grilled enough, so let’s cook 2 more minutes per side. Most of the time, a recipe comes together easily. Sometimes, it doesn’t and we agree on a re-test. And the process repeats itself.
Click here for my California-Style Gazpacho recipe from my new cookbook, Vegan Family Meals real food for everyone.