Please help me figure out how to select good recipes for day-to-day cooking, as a functional cook with plenty of cookbooks and reasonable cooking abilities, but limited instincts/experience!
So, I'm a late-20s guy, and I'm admittedly not a very kitchen-y sort of dude. I have about 5 things I cook really well, mostly based on recipes my friends and family gave me that I've refined over the years. I can follow recipes, so that's not a problem (although I'm not going to complain
about nifty trick ponies like Cooking for Engineers
). I'm just not very good at tracking down new recipes, from the sea of info that's out there.
I recently started cohabitating with my beautiful, amazing girlfriend, who loves food and cooking. Our kitchen relationship so far has basically seen me serving as the sous chef, and/or doing all the dishes/cleaning, except for the rare occasions I do one of my specialty things (which she has no complaint with, but she does like variety). Before we started dating, I was pretty much in "Grad student eat ramen!" mode 9 days out of 10, and I've been eating so much better, and I appreciate all the exposure/delicious food. She isn't asking me to cook more, but I'm starting to feel guilty about the imbalance, and I'd like to contribute more in terms of recipe ideas and elbow-grease.
She has a mind that can instantaneously summon up the contents of our fridge and pantry, and potential delicious things to do with it, about the same way my brain knows the APIs to a variety of programming languages and the details of several metal and wood fabrication processes, and the contents of my shop. This is frustratingly daunting to me, on top my lack of instinctive knowledge of recipes and food. I don't need to train myself to her level of awareness, but I need to get myself in a better place mentally for cooking, I think.
So, how do you go about cultivating that kind of grasp? I've got a few cookbooks (most notably America's Best Recipe, from the America's Test Kitchen folks), but I'm totally daunted by the scale of the book (almost 1000 pages). My brain just doesn't have enough cooking in it to say "well, why don't we _____ tonight, I'll go get the ingredients," even after flipping through the thing. It's partially being overwhelmed with options (and not having a good metric for discriminating time/effort vs. outcome) and partially feeling like I have no idea what's in the kitchen already (because I honestly don't, no matter if I bought most of it last week or not)!
I am almost certain that some of what I need to do is just decide that I'm going to like cooking, and seek out information about recipes/cooking theory the same way I do my other hobbies. I don't think I'm ever going to get as excited about the stove as I do the soldering iron, but I'd like to get into it at least enough to contribute more. Any tips on how to make that happen better? Any resources I should be reading?