I have a hard time following directions. I think that’s why I don’t like baking. It’s too precise for me. Cooking, on the other hand, is right up my alley. I pour over recipes and when I see one I’d like to try, I have a hard time sticking with the author’s interpretation of the dish. Once I step foot in my kitchen with a recipe, the questions begin. What if I added this spice instead of that? I wonder if this vegetable would work instead of that? Why did the author do this? Why didn’t the author do that? Sometimes I feel as if I’ve conquered a dish by tweaking it … other times I kick myself for not trusting the author.Because of this dysfunction of mine, I’ve discovered a cookbook that I can’t live without. It’s a cookbook without recipes. This book changed what I do in the kitchen. For somebody like me who loves to experiment, this is my guide … my inspiration … my motivation. The book is called The Flavor Bible, by Karen Page and Andrew Dornenburg.
The Flavor Bible is a flavor matchmaker. For example, say you’re at the farmers market and the butternut squash is calling your name, but you don’t know what to do with it. Don’t let that stop you … BUY IT! Take it home with you. You have nothing to worry about because you have The Flavor Bible. All you have to do is look up Butternut Squash and you’ll get a list of flavor affinities and suggestions. Did you know that shrimp and butternut squash compliment each other? I did not … but I applaud the person who discovered this.
Some flavor affinities include butternut squash, bacon, maple syrup & sage. Maybe you could sprinkle some cayenne pepper & salt on the squash, roast it in butter, and serve it over baby spinach with bacon, red onion and toasted pumpkin seeds with a maple syrup and sage vinaigrette. Or perhaps you’d like to keep it simple. Soup is always a great option. Make a butternut squash soup by first sauteing some shallots, garlic & celery. Add peeled and seeded butternut squash, finely chopped sage, and chicken stock. Simmer for 20 minutes. Puree and top with a sprinkle of nutmeg, chopped flat leaf parsley and creme fraiche. These are only ideas that popped into my head as I’m looking at the flavor chart. I haven’t tested them. Yet.
Tonight The Flavor Bible came in handy. I came across a whole chicken on sale while grocery shopping. Roasted chicken sounded perfect for a cold winter day. The great thing about chicken is that it compliments almost anything. As I was looking in my refrigerator, I found some limes and cilantro. Why not use those in my chicken? The Flavor Bible confirmed my flavor hunches and made more suggestions. The tip was “Always use fresh, not cooked (cilantro) — or, if you must, add at the very last minute. Use cilantro to provide a cooling note to chile pepper spiced dishes.”
I buttered my bird and sprinkled salt, pepper, chili powder and cumin on the top of the bird and inside the cavity. I stuffed the bird with a quartered onion, a quartered lime, cilantro and mint. After roasting the bird, I decided to make gravy with the drippings. I made a standard gravy with chicken stock. I squeezed some lime juice into the gravy and sprinkled chopped cilantro on the top. The lime juice & cilantro gravy received rave reviews from Hot Hubby and Co. when served over the roast chicken, mashed potatoes and green beans.
You no longer have to fear the kitchen when armed with The Flavor Bible. Now if only there was an app for that.