I've been catching up with re-runs of the American cooking show (on Season 3 now) on SKY Uno.
It's very motivating. One of my big goals (along with getting my Italian up to speed) is to be more of an instinctive cook. I use recipes a lot. Sometimes I will change them.
My mom is a very good cook. If she was trying something new she would use a recipe but otherwise most of the food she made was from her head. Baking is another story. There were some recipes from "back home" that were not written down but for certain cakes, cookies, etc. she had a few favorites.
I learned to cook from watching my mom, 7th grade Home-Ec and the Brownies. For a long time I was "too busy" to cook. A few years ago I stopped doing takeout and started cooking more. When I moved into my L.A. apartment I didn't own a microwave so no more Lean Cuisines. They took so long to cook in a regular oven, I thought might as well cook something from scratch. I don't own one here and have no plans to buy one.
My kitchen is tiny so I can't have a well stocked pantry. However, I always have pasta, canned tomatoes, garlic, white beans and tuna, so if push comes to shove I can make something for dinner. I live within walking distance of three excellent farmer markets open 6 days a week and the supermarkets near me have excellent produce as well. At last count there are five butchers within a few blocks, and a cheese co-op near by. I really have no excuse not to experiment more.
In L.A. I would decide what I wanted to make, wrote a list then went to the supermarket. Here I go to the market and see what's in season.
My "challenge" is to go to one of the butchers or fish mongers, see what looks good, buy it, make something with it. I have gone to the butcher's for polpette/meatballs but that's it. I find the fish places intimidating because I'm not sure what to look for and I fumble speaking Italian when I don't know what I'm doing, which makes the experience more frustrating.
Thanks to Megan, at least now I know some of the fish names in Italian. I'm ready for this challenge (kind of).