We are constantly struggling with recipe titles. How much, if at all, do you call attention to the cuisine that inspired the dish? How do you treat classic dishes known mostly by their non-English menu names? How many of the ingredients do you list in the title (when you don’t want to come off looking like one of those ridiculous restaurant menus on which everything down to the salt has been sourced)?
For the most part, we’ve settled on ingredient-focused recipe titles, because that’s how we think about cooking most of the time. “In my fridge, I’ve got a head of broccoli, a chunk of Asiago and a clump of rosemary. What can I make?” Or: “I’m craving a spicy, tomato-y chicken dish. What are my options?”
There’s another reason we default to ingredient-focused titles, and it has to do with variation. As you know if you’ve read Cookthink for any amount of time, we’re not best-recipe people.
We love to take a dish — a simple black bean burrito, for example — and vary it in any number of ways: add broccoli; or broccoli and cumin; or broccoli and cumin and coriander; or cumin and carrot; or cumin and cilantro and coriander and carrot; or cumin and coriander and carrot and bell pepper; and on and on. When you have all these variations on a dish, how they’re different is what we need to show in the title — instead of using non-descriptive titles like “Black bean burrito IV” or “Claire’s favorite burrito” or even cuisine-inflected titles such as “Asian chicken burrito”.
One other reason we default to listing ingredients: at a certain point, a variation on a particular dish is no longer a variation on that dish but is something else instead. For example, at what point does a caponata stop being a caponata? When you take out the tomatoes? The olives? The celery? The pine nuts? A friend with Sicilian roots was just in town for a couple of days and we played around with a few different recipes. This stripped-down non-Sicilian, non-caponata caponata came out as my favorite.