The deal breakers in your favorite cookbook multiply in tough economic times. Fresh herbs? Too pricey. Another new spice? Forget it. A tablespoon of an unpronounceable liqueur? Not before payday, if ever.
Don't toss out the goal of home-cooked meals just yet. Remember, a recipe is just a road map, and there are always other ways to get to a good meal. Learn the fine art of ingredient substitution, starting with our handy guide. Janet K. Keeler, Times food and travel editor
When you see: Shallots. Think: Sweet Vidalia onion or anything you have on hand. In a cooked dish, the difference will be imperceptible.
When you see: Sliced portobello or cremini mushrooms. Think: Button mushrooms work fine.
When you see: Grand Marnier Think: Frozen orange juice concentrate or simmer orange juice until it's reduced by half.
When you see: Heirloom tomatoes Think: Any ripe tomato.
When you see: Panko Think: Dried, unflavored bread crumbs.
When you see: Arborio rice Think: Short-grain white rice, especially for risotto.
When you see: Serrano chili Think: Jalapeno.
When you see: Fresh basil, thyme, oregano, chives, parsley Think: Use dried herbs but reduce amount by one-third and incorporate into dish in the beginning of preparation process rather than the end.
When you see: Mace, cloves, nutmeg, cinnamon pumpkin pie spice Think: Nearly interchangeable in baked goods. If you've got two of the five, you'll be fine most of the time. Buy small quantities at natural food stores or the smallest container at the grocery store.
When you see: Creme fraiche Think: Sour cream or Greek yogurt.
When you see: Mascarpone Think: Cream cheese (8 ounces) and sour cream (3 tablespoons)
When you see: Bittersweet chocolate Think: Semi-sweet.
When you see: Red or yellow bell peppers Think: Cheaper green bell peppers. If the recipe calls for roasted red bell peppers, buy them in jars.
When you see: Prosciutto Think: Bacon.
When you see: Leeks Think: Scallions or thinly sliced onions.
When you see: Fontina cheese Think: Swiss cheese.
When you see: Yukon potatoes Think: Whatever potatoes you have on hand.
When you see: Marsala wine Think: Port, pinot noir or another sweet red wine.
When you see: Chili sauce Think: Ketchup mixed with horseradish.
When you see: Asiago cheese Think: Parmesan or Romano cheese.
When you see: Fresh ginger Think: 1/8 teaspoon ground ginger for 1 tablespoon fresh.
When you see: Vanilla bean Think: 2 teaspoons vanilla extract for 1 vanilla bean.
When you see: Chorizo Think: If called for raw, use any spicy sausage such as andouille or hot Italian. For cured chorizo, substitute spicy salami.
When you see: Balsamic vinegar Think: Red wine vinegar.
When you see: Red pepper flakes Think: Dash or two of hot sauce.