How to Read a Recipe

By Daniel Lucas

A couple simple rules for using the recipes ( and cooking in general )

Perhaps paradoxically, I generally don’t like using the internet to find recipes. From my experience, when I cook from the internet there is a vague sense of disjointedness because the recipes don’t fit into a particular narrative, they are merely a list of instructions. I don’t feel connected to them. There are dozens of good cookbooks out there, and another thousand food blogs on top of that. There is so much noise in this space that I’m barely convinced of my own ideas. The hard truth is that nobody needs another recipe on how to make Spaghetti with Marinara. My family’s recipe doesn’t have a magic secret that makes it better than any of the other Italian family recipes, for which you can find by cracking open any half-decent Italian cookbook.

The purpose of this site is to build community around food. It’s about connecting with the local producers, artisans, farmers, and winemakers, then gathering people together to share a meal. These recipes are just as much thy glue that adheres together community as they are instructions on how to make the dish. I highly encourage you to track down the local artisans and producers I have featured for a meal and use their products. Not because they pay me to endorse them, but because that’s the purpose of the recipes—they are templates for your own personal culinary experiences that I have designed based off of my own experiences.


Cooking and Creativity

What makes good cooking is much less about following a rigid sequence of steps so that you always end up with the same end product. The beauty in these recipes is that I’ve designed them meticulously so that they will lead everyone down their own unique journey. There are no mistakes, only different variations of success.

I frequently use the tilde “~”, which informally means “approximately”, such as “~30 minutes before”, meaning “approximately 30 minutes before”. Think of it as a reminder to be flexible, experiment, and have fun. A meal isn’t about achieving some specific end result. Instead, think of a meal as a reflection of the present moment. What season is it? What do I have in my fridge? Maybe I want to try boiling instead of roasting because I’m curious (or impatient). These recipes are snapshots of how I happened to have made a particular meal at a particular point in time. Aside from a handful of authentic family recipes, rarely do I ever make anything exactly the same as I have in the past.

Learn how to use your senses to feel how much of something you should add to a meal. Whether it’s adding a pinch of salt, a handful of chopped parsley, or a dash of vinegar—figure out how much is right for you. This could depend on the quantity of a certain ingredient you have on hand, or whether you particularly like an ingredient. Taste raw ingredients before adding them if you’ve never used them before or if you’re using a different source than normal. Taste small amounts of spices and herbs to see how strong they are. I find listing specific quantities for herbs and spices in recipes is more likely to be incorrect than if I just omit them. Spices and herbs have an extremely wide breadth of intensities, flavors, and profiles. I can’t possibly know what yours taste like or what you like. I have quantities specified where I feel it is important, but other times I like to intentionally not list quantities at all. When you are reading through the recipes, feel free to relax and just do what feels right for you. The meal that you make will ultimately be yours, not mine.

The Recipe UX (User-Experience) Design

As someone that has a career building software, I can’t bear to look at a lot of food blogs out there. Nothing is more irritating than having to scroll through a litany of photographs, combined with an anecdote about the author’s dog before I finally get to the recipe. I keep the photography on the recipe pages to a minimum (more on this in a bit) and I try to reserve the intros for brief snippets that provide the meal with some context and a few select implementation suggestions.


Nothing is worse than bad advertising. I provide recommended products for local vendors and have wine pairings where applicable. They’re all local artisan producers in the greater Portland, Oregon area. I recommend them because that’s the whole point: to build a community around food.


My favorite (and the best) cookbooks have no photos whatsoever. It empowers the cook with the creative freedom to make whatever he or she envisions, uninfluenced by overly staged photography. Don’t get me wrong, I like a beautifully designed plate and having an impactful presentation, but meticulously staging—or God-forbid rendering the food inedible—kills the authenticity of a meal.

Though, some people like the direction of knowing what it should look like, so against all of my strongest desires, I’ve compromised and added a single photo to each recipe. They are all unaltered versions of actual meals that I, or other people, have made and eaten. I encourage you to ignore them if you can.

Note: This is currently an ongoing process, so if you happen to make a dish that doesn’t have a photo, please take one and sent it to me!


The ingredient list contains most, if not all of the prep instructions for a meal so that I don’t have to redundantly provide prepping instructions in the method. Read the method carefully in advance. There is a big difference between roasting a whole potato and roasting a potato in one-inch cubes.

Certain ingredients assume some prep work has been done in advance, which is denoted by a link. Here are a couple common examples:

Handmade Pasta: Instructions for making pasta by hand are not included in the individual recipes, please refer to the master guide, which is linked in the ingredient list.

Beans: I always use dried beans, which you need to soak and cook in advance (usually the day before) of using them in a dish. I always list for cooked beans, that is the quantity measured after you soak and cook them. Usually, I soak and cook beans in very large batches and store them in the freezer.

Broths: There is a guide in the works for this, but all broths for everything are homemade and should be made in advance. Please please, don’t use broth that comes out of a box.


I try to make the method easy to read and break it down into as many short, individual steps as possible so that it’s easy to find where you’re at. Nothing is worse than having to re-read a paragraph every time you’re ready to move on to the next step. Most of my recipes can be made using a couple reliable pots and pans, but a couple recipes require specialized equipment. It’s a rare exception, but read through the method in advance and be aware of what equipment I call for. Most times I try to keep it generic, “medium-sized saucepan”, for instance.

Hello, Portland.

Many (eventually all) of the recipes have recommendations for where you can find high-quality local products. The goal of making good marinara isn’t so much about how much garlic you put in (as long as you don’t burn it!), but rather, it’s about going to the farmers market and buying the best tomatoes that money can buy at the peak of the season when they taste the best. It’s about finding the eggs and the flour from local artisan producers who source their wheat from sustainable and local growers. Cooking is a very long chain of events that starts far beyond the kitchen. A good cook takes the time to cultivate incredible products that have been produced with ingenuity and love, adds a bit of their own, and then gathers people together to share it with.

Note: While this site is more or less directed to the Portland, Oregon Metro area, ff you happen to live elsewhere, the recipes will be equally applicable to yo. However, the recipes might not be truly seasonal for you . Perhaps you can use this as inspiration to create a similar project in your area! Or, come visit and share a meal!

Seasons Change

Modern grocery stores have really blurred the lines on what is season, but it can be equally confusing at the farmer’s markets. The Pacific Northwest has such a friendly growing season that a lot of products can be grown nearly all-year round. Some crops can be sown in the spring for a summer harvest, and then sown again in the fall to be overwintered. A lot of farms use modern techniques that let them extend the season for a particular crop in either direction so that they can have a better position in the market. You can command a pretty penny for fresh basil in May, or tomatoes in June and November. My rule of thumb is that if you can find two products together on the same day at the farmer’s market, then what you have a seasonal meal. But it can be hard to predict what’s going to be available when, so I vet all of my recipes against the planting calendar designed by Steve Solomon, author of Growing Vegetables West of the Cascades. I make sure that all the vegetable combinations that are used in a given recipe could be harvested at the same time based of Steve’s harvesting schedule for each vegetable.

The Pantry

I like to cook with a highly-organized, efficient, and economically savvy pantry that’s sourced locally where possible. After years of cooking, I realized that what I like about Italian cuisine is its ingenuity. Tamar Adler, author of The Everlasting Meal calls this “Cooking with Economy and Grace”. It’s about figuring out how to make what’s available into a delicious meal. Historically options were limited. A peasant snowed into the Apennines mountains of Central Italy might only have potatoes, some cabbage, and a bit of pork fat—thus, Foglia Pesti is born.

We have a lot of choices now in our daily life, both concerning what we eat and otherwise. On a daily basis, we need to make more choices than we are designed to handle. For me, the pantry is an opportunity to reduce the complexity of modern cuisine (and modern life) and highlight the simplicity of the meals of the past. It’s an ode to all the ancestors that helped design the cuisines we inherited. It’s a moment to reflect on a time when we didn’t always have so many choices and options were sparse. Throughout most of history, the major struggle was against famine and starvation. Pepper was a fundamental economic building block of major civilizations. I’ve designed my pantry to reflect on—and perhaps romanticize—all of the great cooks that came before us.

My pantry is also highly also utilitarian. It keeps ingredients flowing so they don’t spoil, become stale or lose their potency. If you buy too much, you can almost be certain you can use it again in a timely manner. It allows me the time to run around town to find the highest quality ingredients, using locally produced products when possible. Or, on a rare occasion, searching for an imported product that’s second to none. Other times, I literally find myself wandering around the woods searching for mushrooms and other wild edibles. Every step of the ways is intentional.

Finally, it allows me to put my signature on everything I make. The food is undoubtedly mine. I encourage you to adapt my recipes to fit your pantry and design your own signature that is uniquely you.


This project is brand new and I could use all the help I can get. If you read through something that doesn’t sound right, run into instructions that don’t make sense, or spot a potential type-o, let me know. I will be very thankful. Furthermore, if you have an idea on how I can improve the content or experience of this site, please get in touch. You can email me at I would love to hear your suggestions.

Now, with all of that said, go and cook yourself dinner!