As I started this blog, I vowed to share some of our favorite resources for cooking. I don’t know about you, but whenever someone is professionally trained in something, I always wonder what they’re reading or what resources they use. We added a resources page to our menu where we will keep a running list, however, I wanted to give you a better sneak peak into what the resources actually entail.
My absolute favorite and most used tool is The Flavor Bible by Karen Page and Andrew Dornenburg. It’s an incredible tool for both beginners and professionals, focused on flavor profiling. People ask me all the time how I learned how to build a plate, what spices to add into what, or how I know what tastes good together. The answer is this book. Well, besides trial and error mixed with curiosity and a ton of failures. Yes, professionals fail, too.
Recently, Karen Page released The Vegetarian Flavor Bible. Contradictory to the title, this book is not just for vegetarians. I was in heaven, yet again, when I received this version, because it has almost any produce option you can think of.
Okay, so let’s break down how this book works. In the first couple pages, you’ll find an introduction to the book. Within the introduction, it gives you great advice on eating nutritionally, as well as explaining the inspiration behind the book. There’s a section going deep into the history of plants and different aspects of food. Further, a chapter on maximizing flavor and what taste is all about. Next, the good, juicy part – flavor matchmaking. This section is like eHarmony for food.
In the flavor matchmaking section, you’ll find an alphabetical list of vegetables, fruits, grains, nuts, seeds, etc. In the original Flavor Bible version, the different proteins (meats and fish) are listed too. For this post’s sake, let’s choose beets. I love beets! Under beets in the flavor matchmaking section, it has detailed information, including the season it’s best (year-round, especially in late summer through autumn), a flavor description, the nutritional profile, suggested techniques of cookery, and some botanical relatives.
Now that you’re educated on the food item, Page gives you a detailed list of different foods and spices that complement the item. In BOLD CAPS are items that go really really well together, in bold are items that go really well together, and the rest of the items go well together.
In the case of beets: some items that go really really well with beets include apples, greens, fennel, orange, horseradish, etc; items that go really well with beets include basil, bell peppers, honey, etc.; and items that go well with it include blackberries, cardamom, cauliflower, lemon, etc. Keep in mind there are tons more items listed that work well with beets!
After that list, there is a list of flavor affinities. Essentially, a laid out road map of what combinations rock together. If the big list didn’t make it easy enough for you, these flavor affinities take the work out of it! For example, one flavor affinity for beets is: BEETS + arugula + feta cheese + balsamic vinegar + walnuts.
Last, but certainly not least, there’s a “dishes” section, which lists some dishes from different restaurants that include the particular food item. I love this section because it shows you ways professional chefs are utilizing the ingredients around the world!
Phew… thank you for bearing with me in that long-winded description! I am passionate about this book and the mission behind it, so it wasn’t easy shortening the description to even just that! Feel free to ask me all of the questions you have, but for cooks old and new, this book is a must have.
On a separate note, I’d also like to mention Page’s dedication that reads, “For Andrew, who – even after twenty-nine years – still continues to surprise me.” If that isn’t relationship goals, I don’t know what is.
Happy hump day!
The Flavor Bible: The Essential Guide to Culinary Creativity, Based on the Wisdom of America’s Most Imaginative Chefs*
The Vegetarian Flavor Bible: The Essential Guide to Culinary Creativity with Vegetables, Fruits, Grains, Legumes, Nuts, Seeds, and More, Based on the Wisdom of Leading American Chefs*
*We are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites.