Novice cooks often claim the reason they don't try new recipes is that ingredients aren't readily available. Or they don't have the correct...

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Novice cooks often claim the reason they don’t try new recipes is that ingredients aren’t readily available. Or they don’t have the correct size pan.

They won’t have those excuses if they have David Joachim’s “The Food Substitutions Bible” (Robert Rose, $19.95). The book has more than 5,000 substitutions for almost every type of food and includes directions for making replacements.

Substituting is a matter of tailoring your cooking to meet your immediate needs. Many substitutions yield results remarkably similar to those you would achieve with the real thing. One cup all-purpose flour mixed with 1 ½ teaspoons baking powder and 1/2 teaspoon salt makes a very close approximation of 1 cup store-bought self-rising flour.

Others are meant to inspire creativity. Replacing apple butter with pumpkin butter might vary the flavor and take your recipe to where you want it to go. The cardinal rule is: Substitutions always will produce slightly different results.

Entries in the book are arranged alphabetically and cross-referenced like an index. Each entry contains a brief description, useful tip or interesting fact about the item. Here are examples from the book.

Buttermilk: Buttermilk is liquid left after whole milk is churned into butter. Commercial buttermilk is a tart, thick product created by adding special bacteria to nonfat or low-fat milk.

If you don’t have it: Substitute 1 cup buttermilk with 1 tablespoon lemon juice or vinegar plus enough milk to equal 1 cup (for baking, let stand 5 to 10 minutes before using); 1 cup water plus 1/4 cup powdered buttermilk; 1/2 cup plain yogurt plus 1/2 cup milk; 1 cup plain yogurt (thicker); 1 cup sour cream, or 1 cup milk plus 1 to 1 ½ teaspoons cream of tartar (for baking).

Dark brown sugar: Use dark-brown sugar instead of light-brown sugar for a deeper molasses flavor in cooking, baking, spice rubs and marinades. To measure accurately, always pack the sugar firmly into a measuring cup.

If you don’t have it: Substitute 1 packed cup dark-brown sugar with 1 packed cup light-brown sugar plus 1 tablespoon molasses; 1 cup granulated sugar plus 2 to 3 tablespoons molasses or 1 cup turbinado sugar.

Tomato paste: If you typically use only small amounts of tomato paste to thicken a sauce, look for it packed in a squeezable tube. Because the tube is airtight, the paste can be refrigerated for months without spoiling.

If you don’t have it: Substitute 1 tablespoon tomato paste with 2 to 3 tablespoons tomato puree or tomato sauce (reduce liquid in recipe by 2 to 3 tablespoons); or boil tomato puree or sauce until reduced to 1 tablespoon.