Every cook has certain beloved kitchen tools that they reach for time after time – the wooden spoon that has stirred everything from a rich and chunky bolognese to creamy bechamelle sauce. Or the perfectly seasoned cast iron skillet that fried eggs slip right out of. For me its a sharp paring knife and a book. Let me introduce you to The Flavor Bible: The Essentials Guide to Culinary Creativity, Based on the Wisdom of America’s Most Imaginative Chefs ($24 at Amazon.com). It’s a book Ruth and I both frequently turn to for tips and advice in the kitchen. It has even made a guest appearance in a number of our blog posts, including as our number 1 cooking resource in our special 100th post.
The Flavor Bible is not a cook book, but a beautifully organized and well curated reference book that allows any home cook to reach for amazing culinary heights. Authors Karen Page and Andrew Dornenburg interviewed over 2 dozen culinary “experts” including José Andrés (a personal favorite) and sommelier Adrian Murcia to explore modern flavors and cuisines. The meat of the book is an alphabetical index of 600+ herbs, spices, produce, meats, and more. Under each ingredient is a list of complimentary flavors and ingredients with simple textual devices such as using bold font and all-caps to rank various flavors and ingredients compatibility with the listed main ingredient. Peppered throughout the pages are insights and recommendations from the country’s top experts and stunning pictures of the ingredients listed on the pages.
Do you have a giant jar of tamarind paste in the fridge and a bit tired of making pad thai? Just look up tamarind in the alphabetical list of every ingredients and learn that you could make a lovely braised lamb in a tamarind coconut sauce with potatoes and onions. Sounds good right? Yea, the Flavor Bible just gave me that dinner idea, so expect to see some version of it in the near future.
In short, go buy this book and then buy a few extra to have on hand as gifts for the fellow cooks in your life. Once you own it, you won’t know how you lived without it.