Chances are if you are a food blogger, avid home cook, or chef you might have already heard of, or even own, The Flavor Bible. I bought this book last year and I’ve been meaning to write about it for a while. I really didn’t intend for this week to be a book review week, but sometimes that’s just the way the cookie crumbles. :)
The Flavor Bible, described as “the essential guide to culinary creativity”, profiles ingredients and the corresponding herbs, spices, seasonings, etc. that pair well with each of these ingredients. As someone who has grown to love recipe creation, this book is a resource tool that I turn to when I’m looking for a nudge in the right direction. When I have an ingredient in mind that I’d like to cook with, I often look to this book for suggestions of other “compatible” ingredients that I can include in the dish.
Each ingredient details things such as peak growing season(s), botanical relatives, taste (sweet, sour, salty, bitter), the function (cooling, warming, etc), weight (is it heavy, moderate, or light feeling?), volume (is the flavor quiet, moderate, or loud?), cooking techniques, tips, and incompatible flavors to avoid. All of these are described in greater detail at the beginning of the book.
Below each main ingredient you’ll see a list (often 1/2-1 page in length) of all of the ingredients that the experts/chefs believe the food pairs well with. Bold caps indicate the most agreement among chefs. For example, carrots are said to pair exceptionally well with butter, ginger, lemon, maple syrup, orange, parsley, and sugar. Other ingredients that are said to pair well with carrots include cinnamon, coriander, dill, lime, spearmint, olive oil, parsnips, salt, tarragon, thyme, etc.
The Flavor Bible also provides specific flavor affinities or suggested pairings for many ingredients, such as:
- carrots + cilantro + lime
- carrots + cumin + orange
- carrots + maple syrup + orange
- carrots + pistachios + turnips
I’ve found some of the flavor affinities in this book to be quite obvious (such as tomato + basil + mozzarella), but many seem new and exciting (cinnamon + lemon + tomatoes). These flavor affinities can provide the basis or starting point for recipe creation. Just looking at the carrots + cilantro + lime combo, I immediately think of a fun take on coleslaw or a salad. For the carrots + maple syrup + orange I start to dream about carrot cupcakes with orange frosting. I love that just a few ingredients can get the creativity flowing, especially during those times when my creative spark feels zapped.
Aside from suggested pairings, there are also quotes from popular chefs about their favourite way to prepare or serve that particular ingredient. Here are a couple quotes I pulled from the book:
“The combination of ginger and scotch is explosive! I think the combination of ginger and lemon is such a welcoming flavor and can take on almost any spirit. Ginger itself is one of the most compelling scents and flavors in the world. Nothing else comes close.” ~Jerri Banks, Cocktail Consultant (New York City)
“Almost every dish has to have some sort of acid, or else it will taste flat. It is a question of taste – some chefs like sour, some like sweet – and there is no right or wrong. Lemon juice is used in small amounts to bring out the flavors. I use all kinds of vinegars – banyuls, red wine, rice wine, and sherry, just to name a few.” ~ David Waltuck, Chanterelle (New York City)
To be clear, this is certainly not a vegan or vegetarian book. Not even close. You will find a large amount of meat, fish, and dairy ingredients detailed throughout the book (with some photographs), but that isn’t surprising to me given it’s an all-purpose culinary reference. I skip over the ingredients that don’t apply to me, but I would obviously love to see a vegetarian or vegan version of The Flavor Bible or similar book in the future. This would allow the authors to explore even more commonly used ingredients in veg cuisine. There have been a few ingredients that I looked up and couldn’t find in the book, so while it does provide a nice starting point for common ingredients it certainly doesn’t include everything I cook with.
If you like to experiment with creating your own recipes, this book is worth checking out. My advice is to check it out at your local bookstore or library in person to see if it will be a good fit in your own kitchen!
Do you enjoy cooking and recipe development? Have you found this book, or any others, to be useful tools along the way?
UnDiet Giveaway Winners!
Thank you to everyone who entered the UnDiet giveaway! Without further ado, the winners are…
1 copy of UnDiet goes to #394 – Carol E. “I’ve followed you on Facebook for ages, but I just started following you on Pinterest.”
And the winner of Meghan’s online course UnDiet Meal Prep Made Easy goes to #1512 – Jackie P. “This book looks amazing!!”
Congrats to you both! I will email you shortly to collect your information.