Lighten Your Recipe Load | The Jewish Week | Food & Wine

Lighten Your Recipe Load

Lighten Your Recipe Load

Lemon bars/ Ronnie Fein

Ronnie Fein’s tips for purging your recipe box

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I am in the midst of a purge, inspired by my yearly pre-Passover-getting-rid-of-chametz holiday cleanup. Only now, what I'm getting rid of isn't groceries, it's recipes. I have four enormous file drawers filled with them, all categorized neatly in folders, all labeled clearly so that anyone who wanted to find a recipe for "Poultry, Chicken, Grilled" or "Pie, Fruit" or "Hors D'oeuvre, Meat, Hot" could do so quickly and easily.

Recently, when I removed the "Cookies" file in an effort to find a particular recipe, all the clippings and hand-written index cards fell out.

It was one of those seminal moments.

Who needs all this stuff? Hundreds of printed scraps of paper were spread all over the floor, and rather than just stuffing everything back into the folder, I decided to get rid of whatever I thought was unnecessary.

And then I continued with every other file.

I feel as if I have been on a very successful diet. It feels very good and if you are also looking to lighten your recipe load, consider the list of get-rid-ofs that I made for myself.

Just say “NO” to:

1. Recipes that are too time consuming to be worth the effort. For me that means every recipe with multiple steps, like the one for Chocolate Petits Fours with Chocolate Ganache and Fondant Frosting. I don’t have the time or patience for this! I'll leave this sort of thing to test cooks at food magazines and feel just fine just gazing at the photos lovingly as if they were pieces of art when I go online or leaf through the pages of a hard copy. If I want to eat something like this, I’ll go to a restaurant.

2. Every recipe that’s overkill. Just because something is au courant doesn’t mean we have to use it endlessly. Enough with recipes for everything topped with a fried or poached egg. At this point I know I can put one on top of almost anything. I threw away at least two dozen recipes that included once-enticing clippings for Morel Mushrooms in Black Bean Sauce and Fried Enoki Mushrooms (topped with poached egg) and Sweet Potato and Cilantro Quesadilla (topped with fried egg).

3. Recipes that I can’t use because of allergies, dietary prohibitions, or other reasons. For me, that means every recipe that contains walnuts or pecans. I know I can make my Mom's fabulous walnut roll using almonds but I can’t use recipes for pecan pie. Shrimp recipes -- in the discard file except for the one or two I know I can convert using fish.

4. Recipes using ingredients that you’ve come to realize you just don’t like. I don’t like okra, so recipes for Pickled Okra and Pecan Crusted Okra recipes got trashed. I was never going to cook those – why did I clip them in the first place?

5. Recipes for foods that you already have a great recipe for. I chucked every recipe for chocolate chip cookies because in my opinion I already have the best recipe on earth and there is absolutely no need to try another one. Ditto German Apple Cake and Teriyaki Salmon. I like to experiment, but when you have a real winner, why bother with something else?

6. Recipes that are so basic you really don’t need more than one recipe. Like sugar cookies. Do I really need two recipes that are basically the same but one calls for vanilla extract and one for lemon peel?

7. Recipes that are too expensive. I am not going to be making a rack of veal roast that costs about $47.99/pound. And if I did, I’d want to taste the meat for itself, not do something exotic like the recipe for Vanilla-Scented Rack of Veal with Roasted Vegetables that’s now in the recycle bin.

8. Recipes for foods that were once very popular but now seem terribly quaint and old fashioned. Of course I kept all my mom’s recipes, including her spectacular lime-cherry-nut jello mold. But gone are: Fruit-filled raspberry ring with Ambrosia in the center, the jello salad made with Dr. Pepper, maraschino cherries, and canned crushed pineapple and the one that included 7-Up and marshmallows (why were these ever in my files?).

My "cookies" and other recipe files are much thinner now. But they are now filled with the best of the best: recipes that suit my lifestyle, are flavorful, simple, relatively easy to make, and enduring because they are so good.

Like these Lemon Bars:

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