Monday, September 15, 2008

The Flavor Bible: Book review

The Flavor Bible

Andrew Dornenburg and Karen Page have done it again. They've written yet another book that is sure to be a classic kitchen reference guide for years to come. The Flavor Bible lists thousands of ingredients and what other ingredients complement them. A typical listing? Grits are compatible with cheese--cheddar and parmesan, corn, cream, garlic, mascarpone, nutmeg, black pepper, salt, andouille sausage, shrimp and Southern cuisine. These days I need ideas more than I need recipes so the format is perfect for me. The Flavor Bible helps solve the "what else can I do with brussels sprouts?" question and expands your culinary horizons with entries for unusual ingredients such as quince (which has an astounding 51 ingredients associated with it), or lavender.

The ingredient lists came about by reviewing menus, restaurant reviews and cookbooks from all across the country. Some ingredients also have a season, weight, volume, and technique(s) indicated. But there is more to the book than just that. Top chefs from Jose Andres to Vikram Vij share their philosophy about using specific ingredients and techniques and there are also lists of intriguing dishes and "flavor affinities" such as butternut squash, risotto and sage or mango, almonds and lime. The book is very similar in format to their earlier award-winning book, What to Drink with What you Eat.

My only nitpicks are that the list of chef experts are mostly from the East Coast and tend to be focused on European cuisines. There are no chef experts representing the cuisines of Asia (with the exception of India), South America or Africa, that said, the book does include quite a wide range of ingredients such as fish sauce, yuzu, plantain and achiote. Also, since even a book such as this cannot be comprehensive a little more room in the margins would have been nice so that notes could be added. Still I recommend this book wholeheartedly. I am already finding it an endless source of recipe inspiration and impossible to put back on the shelf.