I love finding fun food combinations

I was watching the Worst Cooks in America on the Food Network the other day, and on this particular episode, they were talking about interesting and unexpected flavor combinations. I loved this topic, as I am always intrigued with how fancy restaurants and chefs think of interesting or odd food pairings, and I always want to be able to think of some on my own. The issue is, how do you know that caramel and bacon will work well together or that mango and chili peppers are a good match? While I know that I love the combo of sweet and salty, my mind usually drifts to the more basic pairing of chocolate and pretzels or to my latest obsession of goat cheese and strawberries rather than thinking about the more “out there” combinations.

While I am always willing to try out new things and consider myself rather open to different flavors, how do you come up with them? Especially when you are not a trained chef and aren’t’ exactly the most creative or “out of the box” thinker?

This dilemma reminded me that my friend, Shana, bought for me a cookbook of sorts as a birthday gift a few years ago: The Flavor Bible. This is a really cool book that goes through every type of food imaginable and lists what flavors/other foods go well with it. It is described as “The essential guide to culinary creativity,” and, “is your guide to hundreds of ingredients along with herbs, spices and other seasonings that will allow you to coax the greatest possible flavor and pleasure from them.”

This book is kind of like a cheat sheet for us average cooks of the world that don’t know what unexpected flavors go well together, and It is kind of like an idiot proof way to feel creative and inspired in the kitchen. I’m glad I remembered I had it! Since I was inspired by the show, I decided to page through my book and see if it had any suggestions for any fun food combinations (using my favorite foods!) that I should try that I would never think of on my own (I highlighted ones I’m especially interested in)….

Apples

Good flavor pairings include:

  • almonds and caramel
  • cinnamon, dark chocolate and yams
  • ginger and lemon
  • apricots, rosemary and pine nuts
  • walnuts and celery (must be why waldorf salads are so delicious)

Ideas:

  • possibly chop up my daily apple and sprinkle some ginger and a squeeze of lemon juice on top?
  • quinoa salad with chopped dried apricots, diced apples, pine nuts and dried rosemary?

Asparagus (I just bought some at the store this week):

  • goat cheese and thyme
  • cayenne and lime

Ideas: roasted asparagus with either or these flavor pairings sounds good to me…

Oatmeal

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  • vanilla
  • pears, vanilla and yogurt
  • currants and maple syrup

Ideas:

  • overnight oats made with vanilla yogurt (or plain + vanilla extract) and pears (vs. my normal pb and banana combo)

Kale

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Recommended seasonings include:

  • thyme
  • nutmeg
  • ginger

Ideas:

  • ginger kale chips?
  • sautéed kale with thyme….

Sweet Potatoes

  • orange
  • allspice, cinnamon and ginger
  • chile peppers and lemon jest
  • cilantro and lime

Ideas:

  • roasted sweet potatoes with the allspice combo?
  • salad with sweet potato cubes and orange segments?

Some other intriguing ideas.pairings that caught my eye….

  • lemon, blackberries, honey and ricotta cheese
  • orange, basil and sugar
  • orange, pistachios and chocolate… snack idea?
  • pasta, chickpeas, garlic, sage (they have so many interesting pasta ideas!)

I could go on and on… (I am loving this book!), but I’ll stop there….

Any food pairings you are curious about? (this book has an endless supply of good ideas….)

What is your favorite “out of the box” or odd food combination? I love eating carrots and pb (is that odd?) and am a big fan of grilled cheese and mustard….