Friday, March 6, 2009

Combining Foods and Flavors

In Becoming Recipe-Independent, I talked about my budget-conscious preference for using recipes as little as possible or not at all.

I do draw on my culinary training when grocery shopping and cooking, so rather than assume that everyone can easily do without their recipe books, I'm going to recommend a book-- though it's not a cookbook.

A number of months ago, a foodie friend introduced me to The Flavor Bible by Karen Page and Andrew Dornenburg.

It's a big, encyclopedic-like book, and in that regard it's a phenomenal resource, particularly for anyone interested in learning about mixing and matching food and flavors.

Knowing what foods and their flavors go with other foods and flavors goes a long way when you're doing your grocery shopping and thinking about what meals you might like to prepare.

For instance, using the turkey, apples, spinach and walnuts from the Feb 28th grocery list, I made a meal (pic above) that might seem like unusual food/flavor combining, but let me explain, though first I'll share my method for making this delicious meal.

Turkey, Spinach and Apple
1) Saute a chopped apple in a saucepan with some butter.
2) Toss in a handful of thawed, frozen spinach; maybe add a little more butter since the spinach will soak up all the moisture in the pan.
3) Having baked a portion of turkey breast in tinfoil in a 350-degree oven for a couple of hours, slice the cooled meat.
4) Gently toss the turkey meat, spinach and apples together and serve in a bowl topped with walnuts.
5) Serve with crusty bread and olive oil for dipping and if you have any cheese on hand, say feta or something with bite, serve alongside bread.

Now, spinach is a bitter green, so it lends itself well to sweet, and apple is sweet as are walnuts which are also astringent, and oily, as is turkey.

Given that turkey and walnuts are oily, the bitterness of the spinach cuts through the oiliness. It's always good to combine a bitter with an oily because the latter helps digest oils and fats.

So this is a small example of how The Food Bible cross-references foods and flavors to indicate creative ways of mixing and matching when cooking.

And as I mentioned above, once you have a sense of what goes with what, you can begin to do-away with using recipes because you'll feel more confident grocery shopping and then once home in the kitchen, more confident combining the groceries you've purchased.

1 comment:

Cherith and Rich said...

This is great! I was just thinking about how to learn to put flavors and foods together. I googled, and this is the first thing I found. Exactly the thought process I was looking for. I'm going to read more and check out the book you recommended, too. I currently live in Ecuador as a Peace Corp volunteer. My food options are different than I am used to, and they have a different style of mixing flavors, so I am naturally being pushed into experimenting with foods. But, I wanted to read about it too. Thanks for the little bit of insight and the "lead" on the topic.