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The Flavor Bible--A Cookbook to End All Cookbooks? » the strong buzz, by andrea strong
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“The Flavor Bible--A Cookbook to End All Cookbooks?”

Cookbooks for me are divided into a couple of categories. There are the ones I read, like one might a read novel, curled up on the couch with a cup of tea or a glass of wine (usually books by Patricia Wells, Joan Nathan, and Paula Wolfert, where there is so much history and lore buried in the recipes and the headnotes). Then there are some that I know I don’t really need to read as much as I want to use them—the recipes are exciting and sound wonderful. I carry these books straight to the stove (Lidia Bastianich, Marcella Hazan, and Jasper White to name just a few). And sometimes you find a book that you want to read and use. The latest cookbook to land on my doorstep is one such book.

From Karen Page and Andrew Dornenburg, acclaimed authors of Becoming a Chef, Dining Out, Chef’s Night Out, The New American Chef, among others, comes “The Flavor Bible—The Essential Guide to Culinary Creativity Based on the Wisdom of America’s Most Imaginative Chefs” (Little Brown & Co., $35).

Rather than offer precise and detailed recipes on how to replicate a dish of a given chef or author, with the Flavor Bible, you’ll learn to celebrate the process of creating your own dish. In fact, you will not find even one single recipe in this book. Instead, you’ll be presented with cross-referenced alphabetical charts that offer complementary flavors and appropriate cooking techniques for every ingredient imaginable from sea bass, to green beans, beef short ribs, blue cheese, piquillo peppers, and on and on.

In addition to the flavor charts, the book adds the valuable advice of the country’s greatest chefs and their tips and thoughts about the process of cooking creating delicious meals from a wide array of flavors.

The Flavor Bible is definitely a different kind of cookbook in that its goal is almost to remove the need for a cookbook altogether. Indeed, it teaches a very practical way of cooking. Instead of being tied to a recipe and making sure you have all the ingredients, you are freed to cook from what is in your pantry because you’ll have a guideline of what pairs well with what and how to make your dinner come together from whatever is on hand.

Similarly, you’ll be able to walk through the Greenmarket or Fairway and remember as you pick up a duck that you can pair it with apricots, cherries and basmati rice. You’ll walk by the beef aisle and pick up a steak and remember the book’s advice from Porter House’s Michael Lomonaco who suggests grilling up a steak and topping it with a “margarita sauce” of tequila, orange and lemon juice finished with roasted chile peppers. Or perhaps you’ll pick up some black-eyed peas and be inspired by heir affinity for ham hocks and collard greens to pick up some of those, too.

What I like about this book is that it’s really like a 350 page recipe for possibility. It puts cooking and creating in your hands and says, Here are the building blocks and the way these blocks work best together—no go and play, and have fun. What’s better than that?


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