The Flavor Bible: The Essential Guide to Culinary Creativity, Based on the Wisdom of America’s Most Imaginative Chefs By Karen Page and Andrew Dornenburg, Little, Brown & Co., 2008. Hardcover. $35; 380 pagesAlthough this book contains no actual recipes, it is a must-have reference for any cook seeking fresh ideas. The first two short chapters are a bit pointy-headed, discussing how one builds food from the harmonious interplay of flavors (salty, sour, bitter, sweet), mouthfeel, texture, temperature, emotion, and more. But the real meat of the book, about 340 pages of it, comes in the form of flavor-matching charts organized A to Z by ingredient name or cuisine (Afghan to Vietnamese). Each entry is followed by a list of complementary flavors, plus tips from chefs and foodies on how to use the ingredient, and sometimes flavor combos that one should avoid (like soy sauce with mangoes). The chart for oranges, for instance, shows tons of nice flavor pairings, including basil, cranberries, and some shellfish, while chef Michel Richard of Citronelle in Washington, D.C., notes, “I like orange zest with crab and shrimp. … Lemon and lime are too strong. Orange is feminine—the lady of citrus.” The Flavor Bible can help any cook out of a jam, whether she finds herself lacking an ingredient in the pantry, or, say, ends up with a superabundance of cucumbers in the garden (in that case, move beyond dill and buttermilk and try a salad with coriander, jicama, or peanuts).
GIVE THIS TO: Cooks hungry for new ideas. —Tiffany Vickers Davis