For our 14th anniversary on December 26th Best Beloved bought me The Flavor Bible. Pick a food, any food, and find suggestions from obvious through interesting to bizarre (but still right) for flavor combinations.
Not a cookbook. Dishes are mentioned by name only. The suggestions are classed by the number of world class chefs recommending them.
This book is the epitome of principles rather than rules, my favorite way of gaining expertise. I want to be, not just a good cook (already there in spades) but an excellent cook, an interesting cook. Knowing how to follow a recipe is important, but on its own does not lead to creativity.
Long before I discovered it is an unusual ability, I used to taste combinations in my mind. I’ve long chosen spices based on what works in my head, and I’ve rarely been wrong about a combination. This requires great familiarity, though. Spices or foods I’ve never or rarely eaten don’t work this way.
Seeing what brilliant chefs find interesting but tasty allows me to think about new ways to combine flavors while still keeping it delicious.
If I’m going to make a cooking mistake, it’ll be the seriously rookie mistake of adding too much salt.
We use kosher or sea salt for everything. I don’t like the taste of table salt; it’s too sharp. We have a shaker by the stove, and bamboo salt boxes on the counter and table.
Here’s what I do, time after time: pick up the salt box, swivel the magnetic lid, and shake right from the box into the dish. (This morning it was some tea biscuits, which you might call graham crackers or some such.) Here’s what happens: our brains see a lot of something, and misjudge portions accordingly. This is why using smaller plates is a very effective dieting tool. Honest.
So instead of a few shakes of salt, just to kill the raw taste of the flour when it bakes, I got salty cardamom crackers. If it was green cardamom they could be chai crackers if I’d used pepper.
But not. Cardamom and honey and too much salt.
Maybe I’ll use that empty cardamom shaker for salt.
Part of my “Tom Waits for no man” phase, apparently.
I love being in the kitchen with Best Beloved.