A Pinch?

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

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:

Small pinch of dried herbs

Small pinch of dried herbs

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:

It seems like there is more volume in a small pinch of a leafy herb, but it provides the same amount of flavor

A small pinch feels the same with a leafy dried herb, but may look like a little less

A regular pinch, just a “pinch” of dried herb looks like this, and amounts to a bit less than a 1/2 teaspoon:

A regular pinch of dried herbs

A regular pinch of dried herbs

And a pinch of leafy herbs looks like this:

A pinch of leafy dried herb, which amounts to a generous 1/2 teaspoon

A pinch of leafy dried herb, which amounts to a generous 1/2 teaspoon

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:

This is not quite a tablespoon of dried herbs

This is about a tablespoon of dried herbs

This is a tablespoon of this leafy dried herb

It feels like a lot in your fingers and is about a tablespoon of herbs

Powdered herbs and spices pinch up a little differently. They are also more intense, so more than a just a pinch is rarely needed.

The amount of powdered herb or spice you can pinch is about 1/4 teaspoon

The amount of powdered herb or spice you can pinch is not quite 1/2 teaspoon

Sometimes you might want a couple of pinches of something, but it’s all about tasting as you go.

This is what a pinch looks like in the palm of your hand

This is what a pinch looks like in the palm of your hand

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{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

Caryn's Mom June 20, 2009 at 11:46 am

Caryn introduced us to your site. Love to cook, love new recipes, especially love hints from a “seasoned” cook. Thank you.
Caryn’s Mom

Ebtesam August 21, 2009 at 8:40 pm

Hi Kelly,I am from Saudi Arabia and a dessert maker I met your daughter in the airplane going to Washington a few days ago, she is so lovely and with a charming personality I enjoyed my chat with her,I Would love to get the recipe for her cheesecake with ginger and some other spice.BTW love your photos.

Kelly August 21, 2009 at 8:44 pm

I was thinking of having her “guest” on the blog, and you’ve convinced me! The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, as they say. Watch for the cheesecake recipe — I can verify that it was incredible!

Joanie Hanks September 4, 2009 at 10:19 pm

What a fantastic place to visit for great ideas and beautful pics!! Love it!!!!!!!

Kelly September 9, 2009 at 8:14 pm

So glad you like it! Tell all your pals…

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