Reviewed by L.D.Y.
Hardcover, 380 pages, 2008
Reason for Reading: I love to cook but I rarely use recipes. When I do use recipes, they’re more starting points than strict guidelines, so this looked like something I need in my kitchen.
Synopsis: What herbs should you put on your lamb? What would taste amazing with goat cheese? Is adding a certain flavour to your dish adventurous or just a bad idea? The Flavor Bible will let you know what’s going to taste good, even if you don’t have a recipe – all you need is a zest for culinary experimentation. The book is a giant resource of foods, with each listing telling you what would be a good, great, or fantastic idea. Many of the ingredients also feature favoured groupings of ingredients, the ingredient’s peak season, commonly used preparation tips, and a variety of other helpful tips that will leave you much more confident in the kitchen.
Why you should read this book: Before this book existed, I didn’t know I needed it, but now I don’t want to cook without it. This book will not only let you get a little crazy with the classics, but it will allow you to walk into the grocery store, pick up those strange and exotic ingredients and then come home confident that The Flavor Bible will tell you what to pair it with for optimal taste. The lists are fabulous, but it’s the pictures and other extras that will have you flipping through the book at random, unable to stop until you’re hungry enough to try something. Sprinkled liberally with inspiring, mouth-watering thoughts and tips on cooking, you’re sure to be inspired to try something new – and love the result. An absolute must-have for anyone who aspires to cook better food of any type of cuisine.
Why you should avoid this book: If you’re a ‘recipe-only’ person, you will find yourself plagued with that old lament: ‘But how much do I add?’ There is absolutely nothing wrong with cooking from a recipe, but if that’s all you’re interested in doing, this isn’t the book for you. But if you’re looking to take the plunge and strike out on your own a little bit, this book will help you take a few baby steps and build your confidence instead of leaving you with culinary disasters.
Our taste buds can perceive only four basic tastes: sweet, salty, sour, and bitter. The essence of great cooking is to bring these four tastes into balanced harmony to create deliciousness. It’s that simple – and that difficult. After all, flavor is a function not only of taste, but also of smell, touch, sight, and sound. Because we’re human beings, other nonphysical factors come into play, including our emotions, thoughts, and spirits.
‘It is hard to think of a fruit or nut that is not improved by combining it with chocolate.
–Michel Richard, Citronelle (Washington, DC)
Cooking with ingredients at their seasonal peak is such a central tenet of good cooking that it bears constant repeating. In stores across the country, you can find almost any ingredient at almost any time of year. However, an ingredient’s mere availability offers no assurances of quality.
Also recommended: A Cook’s Tour by Anthony Bourdain; I Like You: Hospitality Under the Influence by Amy Sedaris.
Also by this author: What to Drink with What You Eat; Becoming a Chef; Dining Out; The New American Chef.
Authors’ website: becomingachef.com
Fun tidbit: The two authors are actually a couple living in New York. There’s a dinner party you’d like to be invited to!
Would I read more by this author? I’m thinking I could learn a lot from What to Drink with What You Eat, so yes.
© Lisa Yanaky 2003-2009