Substituting Ingredients

How often do you run across a recipe to find you have all but one ingredient on hand?

Fairly often, judging all the blog posts I've read. Many times, we can leave the ingredient out or find an easy substitute that won't harm the finished product.

But when I'm stumped — which is more often than I usually admit — I turn to "Substituting Ingredients: An A to Z Kitchen Reference."

This book tells you, in alphabetical order, what do do when a recipe calls for such exotics as amaranth, fuzzy melon, mizuna, tamarind and rapini — none of which are basic, everyday Wisconsin ingredients.

The book also offers recipes for Angostura bitters, creme fraiche, herbes de Provençe and pickling spice.

At the end, there is a section on household formulas, like chrome and copper cleanser, drain opener and carpet deoderizer.

Looking for mascarpone cheese in your cheese compartment? Whip cream cheese with butter.

Does a recipe call for star anise or anise seed? Fennel is the perfect stand in.

Fresh out of winter savory? Use pepper.

Out of paprika? Blend tumeric with cayenne pepper.

A lot of the substitutions are common sense. But I found this book to be quite informative. There are many sites online where you can also find basic ingredient substitutes, but this little guide is very thorough.


Jann said…
This is definately my kind of book-I am always trying to invent another ingredient. This takes all the guessing out of it!
Mimi said…
And eliminates error. More or less.

The is always the human element. Once I was making beef stew with a rather good cut of meat. A few weeks earlier, I had re-organized the kitchen, putting all staples into those glass, flap-top jars — I thought it would look very French. When I went to thicken the stew, I used baking soda instead of cornstarch.

What a disaster!
Lu said…
I pulled a "Martha Stewart" recently. I have many of my grains, flours, baking ingredients in glass jars. I used my label maker to remind me (and others) what their content is! On another note, this book looks very neat. Thanks for sharing the tips you learned!
Kristen said…
This book sounds like a gem to have around. I have never heard of it, but you can bet I'm going to check it out! Thanks for the recommendation.
Mimi said…
Lu, I had mine labeled too, but I chose not to look. A label maker is a good idea = er, "a good thing."

Kristen, I think it's one of the most used books in my frugal kitchen. If I can find a substitute ingredient and not have to run to the store for one thing, I am pretty happy.
Katie said…
Another book for my Amazon list. The postman brings so many boxes from Amazon he just shakes his head when he delivers.
'More books?. Crazy American!'
Happy Anniversary and Happy New Year!
Lydia said…
I fell in love with this book, too. When I moved from Boston to the more rural part of Rhode Island, and didn't have a store right across the street, I had to learn to use my pantry more often and more creatively. This book is one of the well-used references I keep in my kitchen.
Lu said…
Mimi, does one add 1 tsp to a cup of milk to make it "buttermilk"? I seem to recall this as that's what I do when a recipe calls for b'milk and I do not have any on hand. Bonne Année 2007!
Tanna said…
How could I have missed seeing this one. It looks and sounds fascinatin! Thanks for the heads up.
Anonymous said…
This sounds like such a great book, and I do a lot substituting in my cooking. That stew and baking soda thing is priceless - much like the time I used vanilla extract in a stir fry instead of soy sauce! Oy!
Mimi said…
Ooh, Judy vanilla extract could be interesting in stir fry! Fusion food!

The recipe for buttermilk, Lu is 1 3/4 tablespoons cream of tartar to a cup of milk. I thought I once read you could add lemon, too.

Tanna and Lydia, I've had this book for about five years now. If I could only keep two cookbooks, it would be this one and that big yellow Mark Bittman book about cooking everything.
Terri said…
Sounds like a very interesting and worthwhile book to have in one's kitchen.
You learn something new every day....I never knew that the cream of tartar makes "buttermilk" thanks for that tip.
Although it's my husband who does the bulk of the cooking now...since he retired, it's a hobby for him...I love coming here to read all your great stuff. (And I pass it on to him)
I have cookbooks from my aunt that were published in the late 1800's and they're fascinating. I can see why so many people are into cooking lately.
Lu said…
Mimi, thanks for the buttermilk "recipe"! That says a lot about the 2 cookbooks you would keep. I have - umm - nearly 100 books and I have never bought, looked at, cracked open, the NY Times (Bittman) book. Guess I'll take the plunge at the library first!
Mimi said…
Terri, I love when my husband cooks — although we have entirely different tastes. I can live without meat, he cannot. So guess who's eating more meat these days?

Lu, I'd prefer not to give up any of my cookbooks. I bought most of them at a remainder table at this wonderful little bookstore with a bay view.

But I think the Bittman book and this little guide are essentials for anyone who wants to cook the basics.

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