Cooking | Improv
Much of the time I feel like an improv actor on the receiving end of a shout of information, like “Cher!” or “cooked chicken!” or “in a penitentiary!” or “parsnips and eggs!” and I have to scramble around and make something of it. I don’t give myself the luxury of shopping for and following a recipe as often as I’d like. To that end I often find myself facing a crew of ingredients and having to order them into something edible with no particular measurements or ingredients called out. This kind of seat-o-the-pants cooking requires that I dig in with my paws and throw, drizzle, sprinkle and plop things into a dish as I go.
Ad hoc cooking is not recommended for casual baking, though, which requires exact measurements to ensure the correct outcome.
The pinch is what you can grab up of an herb or a spice with your thumb and first two fingers — just like the pinch you gave your little brother when he stole your red vines. And I have three pinch sizes:
A small pinch of dried herbs looks like this, and is about the same as 1/4 teaspoon:
These are dried herbs that are fairly broken down, like basil, thyme, oregano, herbs de Provence, for example. Because herbs are flavorings, the exact amount you use is a little flexible.
Here is a small pinch of a large leafy herb, in this picture, tarragon:
A regular pinch, just a “pinch” of dried herb looks like this, and amounts to a bit less than a 1/2 teaspoon:
And a pinch of leafy herbs looks like this:
A large pinch of dried herbs and leafy dried herbs feels like a pretty strong little-brother pinch, like you maybe got a good piece of him. It looks like this:
Powdered herbs and spices pinch up a little differently. They are also more intense, so more than a just a pinch is rarely needed.
Sometimes you might want a couple of pinches of something, but it’s all about tasting as you go.