One of my favorite cookbooks is not a cookbook at all, but more of a handy manual guiding you on how to become your own hero in the kitchen. Ok, maybe not. Or why not…all depends on your definition of a hero.
This amazing book is The Flavor Bible*. I was turned on to this book by one of the chefs when I was taking some cooking classes the Viking Cooking School. I was intrigued by the idea of a compendium of culinary flavor matching and sprung for it even though I usually don’t spend that much on a book. (Call me cheap, but I like the free-ness of Google.)
This book, however, is no Google. And I mean that in a good way. Google might be good for recipes worth putting your own personal spin on, but it’s not always so good for really teaching you what goes with what or how to build depth in a dish. Not all flavor combos are as intuitive as tomato and basil or ham and Swiss. When you’re ready to take your recipe tinkering to a new level, open your kitchen to The Flavor Bible.
The Flavor Bible opens with a discussion about taste, mouth feel, aroma and the “X” factor. It covers weather, seasonality, occasion, weight and more. While this is fun, it’s thankfully a small portion of the book because I’m just not all that crazy about introductory parts of books. I want to get into the meat of things so to speak. But as far as intros go this one is actually pretty good, and about the right length.
The bulk of the book is thesaurus of food. Look up an ingredient, a protein, a spice, a cuisine type, etc. and it gives you a plethora of options to compliment it. In fact a few weeks ago when I made my saffron salmon, the addition of coriander in that dish was due to the suggestion of The Flavor Bible. Who would have thought that cloves and beets could be friends? Or passion fruit and champagne? Feel like giving your dish an African flair? There’s a whole list of ingredients to spin your dish with (and it’s even broken out by North, South and West African.)
The book also lists out Flavor Affinities – groups of ingredients that sing together beautifully (my description, not theirs). For example, it offers avocado + lemon + smoked trout. Or fennel +almond + fennel seeds + honey + lemon. When you’re stumped, you’re never at a loss for long with all the options this book provides. It’s a great way to learn your way around flavor combinations and make a good dish great.
It is totally worth the price to pick up this gem for yourself or the cook in your life. Christmas is just around the corner!
*If you buy through my links it costs no different and I get a small commission. Thanks for your support!