Recipes sometimes scare people. They’re afraid to do the wrong thing. This is a shame. Cooking should bring pleasure and a feeling of success, not anxiety and a feeling of failure. A recipe should reflect the voice of the cook – hopefully a wise voice that encourages them to take that leap and create! Cook! Learn and have fun! Good editing can help facilitate this intent into action. If the recipe is approachable on the page, then surely it can find its way into the kitchen.

When I was the Senior Culinary Editor at Food Network for 2 1/2 years, I was challenged with editing recipes written on the fly during production of some shows, and complex chef recipes written for their staff for others. Every day was different, and I learned so much during that time.

Potato and Zuke Salad (1)

One garlic clove (2)
1 shallot (3)
1T whole grain mustard
1 teaspoon Dijon
1/2 c oo (4)
2T vinegar (5)
2 zuke (6)
2# red potato (7)

Cook potato. Make dressing with rest of ingredients. Add to potato and zuke. S & P. Parm shavings. (8)

The Red Pencil Report
For starters, Zuke? Let’s not be lazy. Then, the entire ingredient list is out of order. The cook can’t decide whether or not to use abbreviations for the measurements (hint: they should all be the same whatever you choose). I’m not even going to say how brief and unhelpful the instructions are. I have seriously seen recipes written this poorly. It may be acceptable for cooks in a kitchen who know the lingo to get away with a recipe like this, but not for the rest of us. We need clarity, uniformity, and consistency.

Some other notes:

  1. No head note. A head note is a great place to explain history, technique, or tell a funny story.
  2. No mention of what to do with the garlic (smash, finely chop, etc?)
  3. Is the shallot minced? Sliced?
  4. Olive oil should be spelled out.
  5. What kind of vinegar?
  6. How are the zucchini cut?
  7. How are the potatoes prepared?
  8. Salt and pepper or Parmesan was not listed in the ingredient list.
  9. No yield.


What a wonderful new way to use up the summer zucchini your neighbor keeps leaving on your porch!

2 pounds unpeeled baby red potatoes (about 22), quartered
1 clove garlic, minced
1 shallot, minced
1 tablespoon whole-grain mustard
1 tablespoon Dijon-style mustard
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
½ cup olive oil
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon pepper
2 small zucchini (about 1 pound), cut in ¼” half moons
Shaved Parmesan cheese for garnish, if desired

  1. Place potatoes in a saucepot of cold, salted water, enough to cover by 2 inches. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and cook until tender, about 20 to 25 minutes. Drain potatoes in a colander. Run under cold water to prevent further cooking.
  2. Mix garlic, shallot, mustards, vinegar, salt and pepper in a large bowl. Whisk in olive oil.
  3. Add zucchini and cooled potatoes to vinaigrette. Toss well to coat.
  4. Add more salt to taste. Garnish with shaved Parmesan cheese, if desired.

Serves 8.