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The Flavor Bible: The Essential Guide to Culinary Creativity, Based on the…

by Karen Page, Andrew Dornenburg

Other authors: Barry Salzman (Photographer)

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8351418,536 (4.48)17
A detailed reference on how to season ingredients to draw out the best possible flavors contains thousands of entries on how to combine flavors and make informed choices about herbs, spices, and other seasonings.

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» See also 17 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 14 (next | show all)
Review from my food & menu planning blog;
http://twie.holeinthewoodsfarm.com/2017/07/flavor-bible-karen-page-andrew-dornen...

There are many cookbooks in my personal library, but only a few would I enshrine in the list of Cookbooks I’d Rather Not Live Without. My second review for this blog will also be one of those, The Flavor Bible, by Karen Page and Andrew Dorenburg. Though, truth be told, it’s not really a cookbook, per se…



It will surprise no one who knows me well that most of my favorite cookbooks are as much food science/theory books as recipe collections. I like to improvise. I like to understand. A book that can help me do this will always rise to the top. The Flavor Bible is one of those books, but in a very different way than most. It is not chock full of recipes, nor even cooking techniques. Instead, it is to flavor inspiration what the card catalog was to libraries (before computer based catalogs made them obsolete, that is…).

The Flavor Bible is essentially a sequel to the authors’ earlier book, Culinary Artistry. I loved it, but lost it when we moved to the farm. Replacing it with this one was a great choice!

The heart of the book consists of an alphabetical listing of ingredients and flavors, from Achiote Seeds, Acidity and Afghan Cuisine to Yuzu Fruit, Zucchini, and Zucchini Blossoms. Each has a table of complementary flavors recommended by experts (mainly a large number of influential and creative American chefs). When a flavor combination is recommended by multiple experts, it’s bold. When lots of them recommend it, it’s in bold caps. If it is a flavor pairing made in heaven, it gets bold caps and an asterisk.

Most ingredients also get a listing of “Flavor Affinities.” These are outstanding groups of flavors, usually three (beets + goat cheese + walnuts), often more (Cherries + goat cheese + ice wine vinegar + black pepper + thyme). There are also suggestions on dishes and techniques from various chefs scattered about, as well as discussion of seasonality. For example, in addition to a huge number of ingredients, the entry for Autumn says the weather is typically cool, and suggests braising, glazing, and roasting as techniques. Sometimes you get helpful tips (add caraway seeds late in the cooking process, but Cardamom early). It also occasionally lists pairings to avoid (basil and tarragon, for example).

The Flavor Bible can really help improve your creativity in the kitchen, particularly if you produce a lot of your own food or shop farmers’ markets. Fresh, seasonal food always tastes best, and is most healthful. But much of our cooking guidance assumes everyone finds their sustenance in the supermarket, where seasons don’t exist (and nothing really tastes like anything). Cooking and eating seasonally can be a challenge at times, but The Flavor Bible inspires creativity, making seasonal and local cuisine a liberating experience!

It won’t give you a recipe for Oysters on the Half Shell, but it will tell you that Hyssop goes with chicken, tomatoes, and thyme, and that can lead you to some yummy experimentation. Hmmmm… Hyssop is plentiful right now… ( )
  chadgard | Sep 28, 2017 |
One night I was preparing dinner from a recipe and, tasting it, realized it needed something. I added an ingredient to a small portion of it – an ingredient I didn’t particularly like – and found it was the perfect flavor foil. This was a particularly favorable feat because I did not even consult my copy of The Flavor Bible but, instead, mentally retrieved its explanation of balancing flavors and considered how I could emphasize or ‘push’ the existing taste to a brighter level. My friend Anne can, amazingly, throw things together off the top of her head and it always tastes fantastic. After a particularly simple but yummy lunch with Anne, I decided I wanted to be able to cook like she -- something she said she’d learned from her mother. However, I wanted guidance to avoid making horrible concoctions and wasting food.

The Flavor Bible is a somewhat strange book to review and recommend. Aside from the first 2 chapters that are comprised of only 33 pages, you don’t read it straight through; the text is most useful in browsing fashion. The first two chapters explain the chef’s mindset. Chapter 1, Flavor = Taste + Mouthfeel + Aroma + ‘The X Factor’ : Learning to Recognize the Language of Food, deals with balancing flavors and understanding how various senses come into play to affect flavor. The first chapter also includes chefs’ personal strategies that not only give specific tips, but also show, in action, what they are considering and pursuing when creating new recipes. Chapter 2, Great Cooking = Maximizing Flavor + Pleasure by Tapping (Body + Heart + Mind + Spirit): Communicating via the Language of Food, discusses the importance of thinking about the occasion, weather, seasonality, weight (heavy or light), volume, and function. While the second chapter was not quite as practical as the first, it was interesting to learn that things I would have considered peripheral to a meal actually had an impact on – or could even aid in – planning, preparation, and the overall experience.

Chapter 3, pages 35 – 374, provide flavor-matching lists. For example, I can look up fennel and find a list of ingredients/flavors that go well with it. If something is listed in bold, it is a pairing frequently recommended by expert chefs; BOLD CAPS means it’s highly recommended; BOLD CAPS* (with an asterisk) means it’s stellar. That’s it. Lists of ingredients. Some entries include classic Flavor Affinities (e.g., fennel + lemon + mint + olive oil + olives + orange; plums + cinnamon + orange; plums + bay leaf + vanilla). Often there are Tips such as “Use to finish a dish” (fennel pollen) or “Gets firmer with longer cooking” (mushrooms -- Portobello). There might also be Techniques such as “Add early in cooking” (cloves), “Add at the end of the cooking process” (tarragon), or “Dry-heat cooking” (pork -- chops).

This is absolutely a time-intensive book, so if you are looking for quick meal ideas, this is definitely not it. If you enjoy spending a lot of time paging through cookbooks and would like to venture into creating some of your own recipes, this is a perfect resource. ( )
  SaraMSLIS | Mar 1, 2016 |
I'll be the first to say that I am a creative but lazy "chef". I am intrigued by recipes, but I rarely use them. When I do follow recipes, I always end up making substitutions which can definitely be tricky. I'm more of a "what do I have in my cupboard" type of person than a plan ahead type, so having lists of ingredients that go well together is a welcomed change to having a strict recipe to follow. I would venture to say that I've created my own recipes from ingredients I would have never thought to put together thanks to this book. What a great reference! ( )
  echoechokg | Feb 14, 2016 |
This is another great reference book for someone like me. I like to cook but I am not great at following a recipe. The Flavor Bible allows me to have an idea for a meal and flash it out with other flavors that work. Anotehr one to buy! ( )
  mlake | Apr 28, 2015 |
Let me start off by giving you the bad:
You are going to want this book for your collection so don't bother with borrowing it from the library.
The library wants their copies back-I know! The nerve!
This is not really a book for beginner's. It doesn't tell you step by step what to do with food.

The Good:
It does tell you flavors and tastes that pair with other tastes and I likey that.
If you have a bunch of asparagus about to go bad in the fridge just pick up this book and it will tell you flavours that meld well with it. It is very broad in foods included also.
Sometimes my mind is blank and I have no clue what to do for dinner. Looking through this book could very well inspire me. (I don't eat processed foods so my little foodie heart loves this) ( )
  bookqueenshelby | Sep 9, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 14 (next | show all)
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Karen Pageprimary authorall editionscalculated
Dornenburg, Andrewmain authorall editionsconfirmed
Salzman, BarryPhotographersecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
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At times our own light goes out and is rekindled by a spark from another person. Each of us has cause to think with deep gratitude of those who have lighted the flame within us. - Albert Schweitzer
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To Daniel Boulud, Patrick O'Connell, and Jean-Georges Vongerichten— the leading lights of culinary creativity of their generation— whose sparks always rekindle our flame
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A detailed reference on how to season ingredients to draw out the best possible flavors contains thousands of entries on how to combine flavors and make informed choices about herbs, spices, and other seasonings.

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