Research, research, research.
Research about food properties and what ingredients will do when they are combined and exposed to heat. Heat that might be low or high. Heat that might be from an oven or a stove or a grill.
Research about natural sugar content, fat content and moisture content. Research about how those work with different types of heat.
Research about creative, complimentary flavors. Research about preparations methods and techniques. Research about traditional preparations and innovative preparations.
Research about ingredients. Everything from apples to shrimp to butter to ground beef to semisweet chocolate to mustard.
Among the research comes realization. Realization that I know so little. I have so much to learn. Every recipe is teaching me more and more about food. Things like the fact that if you simmer pomegranate juice with even the tiniest bit of olive oil, that pomegranate juice is going to explode like fireworks on the Fourth of July. That was a fun kitchen clean up.
I love food. That is no secret. But what really lures me in is that I will never know everything. I will always be able to learn something new. And that is what makes food and cooking so addicting.