Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Book Giveaway: The Flavor Bible

There's nothing as sad as a dish that has no flavor. Well, pretty much all food has some flavor, but you know what I mean--big, bold, sometimes complex flavor that makes food tasty.

It seems that Karen Page and Andrew Dornenburg, the authors of The Flavor Bible, agree. Their new book is subtitled, "the essential guide to culinary creativity, based on the wisdom of America's most imaginative chefs." It's not a collection of recipes, but rather a tool to help you match, build and enhance flavor in anything you cook.

Two introductory chapters discuss the concepts and terms associated with taste and flavor, but the bulk of the book consists of charts. Nearly every food is represented and comes with a (sometimes long) list of ingredients or seasonings or cuisines that "work" with that particular food. On nearly every page, you'll also find musings, tips and advice from professional chefs, along with descriptions of dishes they serve at their restaurants highlighting that page's ingredient.

So, if you like the idea of a well-organized reference book applied to flavor, this is definitely for you. It seems like the kind of book you could flip open to any page and find some good ideas and inspiration. I particularly like the examples of chefs' dishes--definitely good creativity fodder!

So here's the deal: leave a comment telling me how you add flavor to your cooking, whether it's something you do when you make a favorite dish or a trick/ingredient you use to punch things up in general. Comment between now and Tuesday, October 7 at 8 PM eastern time, and make sure you leave your name (I don't need your full name, but "Sandra from Cleveland" is nicer that "baconlover34").

I'll draw a name at random on Tuesday night (While I'm watching the Presidential debate, naturally!) and announce the winner on the blog on by Wednesday. You'll have to check back next week, and if you're the winner just email me with your info by Friday, October 10. The only catch is that you must be located in the continental U.S. to win, since my postage budget isn't limitless. Sorry about that, international readers. Good luck!

A copy of The Flavor Bible was generously provided by the publisher, Little Brown & Co.


Anonymous said...

I've begun to experiment with several flavors more than others - one in particular is anchovies. I've found it enhances a savory sauce with an almost indescribable presence. I created a garlic steak sauce to finish steaks, and I wanted to cut down on butter - and not use the tired flavor of Worcestershire sauce out of a bottle. I used rich kalamata olive oil, only a tsp of unsalted butter, 4 cloves of roasted garlic and 1/2 tsp of anchovies...amazing flavors! texture in the mouth and it added so much to the grilled steaks.

My guests were raving and when they persuaded me to tell them what the secret ingredient was - they were silent.

Topher said...

I really like things spicy so I like to add cayennon, chili powder, and espeicially madras curry or red curry to my dishes like soups or stirfrys to give them that extra kick.


zekks at yahoo dot com

dianaburrell said...

I've learned to taste at every stage of stage of cooking, from initial prep and combining ingredients, to the last minutes at the stove. It's too hard, sometimes impossible, to do a flavor overhaul at the end -- really, all you should be doing are minor adjustments. If I'm cooking off a recipe that calls for a strong flavor like chili, for example, I might just put half the recommended amount in and taste. Nine times out of 10, I end up with a different amount in my own dish. I like to use the analogy of flying a plane: most pilots are going to run out of gas or crash & burn if they wait to make a big course adjustment at the end of the flight. Instead, they make lots of small adjustments during the flight that keep them on course.

What a fun contest, Julie -- thanks for offering it. :-)

Janelle said...

I'm a big fan of Mexican food, so I use a lot of cumin, chili powder, oregano, and garlic. However, to my finished product I often add sour cream, partly because it just seems like the thing to do, but also because it adds just a little zing.

Garrett said...

I can't overstate the importance of just good old salt and pepper; they enhance just about everything when used correctly.

I also put cumin in everything--chili, beans, dips, eggs, soups, etc. It's wonderful!

--Garrett from Louisville

Lydia said...

I learned from my stepmother a long time ago that a pinch of sugar is the secret ingredient; it really helps round out all of the flavors involved, no matter what the cuisine or dish.

Anne Marie said...

My latest thing is grating fresh ginger root over veggies or chicken...

cpullum said...

My family has a saying don't be afraid of the seasoning! We season with whatever we can find. I love seasoning with lipton Onion soup and then adding more different seasons! I do this with chicken and stews!

Hilary said...

I add garlic and korean red pepper to almost everything. Then I reduce, reduce, reduce the sauce/broth!
Hilary of

Carol C said...

Cooking with fresh or dried herbs always give a nice flavor. I also like to use dark or mushroom soy sauces when cooking chinese dishes. I have cooked anchovies in olive oil until they dissolve for pasta, a surprising depth of flavor.

Carol from NYC

lemoncello said...

RJ from CA:
When making gravy, I always go back to an oldy but goody, Kitchen Bouquet. It gives just the right color and flavor to gravy. But no more than 1/2 tsp. to 2 cups of gravy. No one ever mentions this trick anymore, and it would be a shame to lose the wisdom of the past to the genious of the future.

Judith said...

I'm Judith.

I like combining flavours that really give a meal pizazz - mushrooms and thyme, for example, is an all time favourite, or mint and goat cheese.

How exciting! I read a review of the book and have been wanting a copy.

Jennifer said...

This is Jennifer from Tucson.

I agree with Garrett on the salt and pepper, especially freshly ground pepper. But recently, I am loving the chili sauce -- especially sambal oelek, an Indonesian-style sauce. Adds a lovely spicy smokiness, but you need to be careful -- a little goes a long way.

Hillary said...

Hillary from Chicago (and Chew on That blog)

I could definitely use some advice on how to better flavor my foods!

Carolina said...

I buy my spices whole and toast and grind them myself. It's time consuming (especially since I only have a hand-held ceramic grinder), but it's totally worth it. I made a garam masala two weeks ago for a pork tenderloin dish that was excellent. And I have quite a bit left over; my roommate used it last night to make plain chicken breasts that much more exciting.

Anonymous said...

I add onions or ginger to most dishes. This provides adequate pizzazz.

-J from New England

Christie's Corner said...

Understanding how cooking affects different ingredients is essential. You want to add fresh cilantro at the very end to preserve its flavour, but herbs like rosemary benefit from being simmered or roasted along with the dish.

Also, knowing how much heat and for how long can alter the taste of a dish. Sweating vegetables is essential for some dishes, caramelizing is right for others. Raw garlic can be overpowering, burning makes it bitter, but a long, slow cook turns it sweet.

Of course, the perfect technique is meaningless if your ingredients taste like plastic to begin with --like mid-winter hot house tomatoes.

Katelyn said...

I love toasting dry spices and herbs to bring out full flavors. Sea salt is also on my staple shelf! And, if a dish is lacking that "something",I'll often add a dash of nutmeg. You can't really taste it, but I've had people wonder what that one spice is...

FOODalogue: Meandering Meals and Travels said...

I wrote an article called Finishing Touches when I first started blogging because I think it's a very important component to preparing food. While I favor olive oil, flavored #1 'punch-it-up' ingredient would be lemon. A squeeze on pasta, protein, salads, even fruit takes everything up a notch.

Paula Maack said...

What a great idea, Julie! I love the prize, too!!

I like to use flavorful ingredients in all of my cooking, but my favorite trick is to zhuzh (sp?) up store bought items with a bit of added flavor to enhance them and make them my own, whenever I am using them in a pinch.

Some examples include:

* Adding vanilla and a couple of tablespoons of sugar to Bisquick pancake mix, and then cooking the pancakes in Canola oil laced with butter for added flavor and texture.

* When I use canned black or pinto beans, I add sea salt, garlic, cumin, oregano and cayenne to spice them up.

* Another favorite is Trader Joe's pre-made plain hummus, which I liven-up with sea salt, cayenne, a squeeze of lemon or a tablespoon or two of greek yogurt, and a healthy drizzle of olive oil.

* I add lemon and salt to tomato juice.

I hope I am not too late for the contest. I look forward to the results!


~ Paula

Anonymous said...

truffle salt on eggs MMMMM
and for sauces reduce especially crockpot recipes

jojo said...

I have to admit that I use bacon grease sometimes.

kamewh said...

I am a big basil and oregano user. It is especially great in a tuna sandwich!

Thank you for the giveaway!
Kam from Wisconsin

Peabody said...

Even if I don't win this seems like a great book to have. I will have to buy it if I lose out. Thanks for highlighting it.

medicine girl said...

I add light miso to pesto! Lemon (w/salt, of course) to anything that could use some bold & tangy flavor.

Thanks for the contest & the recipes that inspire me to break free from standard busy/over-tired student fare!

MG from the East coast

Shannon said...

I've been cooking a lot of latin foods lately, so I guess cumin and cilantro would be high on my list for flavors these days. I'm also a big fan of homemade stocks in place of canned broths. I make stock and freeze some in bags and some in ice cube trays to use when I cook. It not only tastes better, it's much more cost effective.

Niki said...

What a beautiful book! :)

Julie said...

CB: That anchovy sauce sounds wonderful. I like finishing steaks with butter, but yours is better! I'll have to try it.
Chris: I love spice too.
Diana: Excellent advice--season and taste at every stage and don't dump a ton of anything into a dish just because a recipe says so--there are so many variables to consider.
Janelle: I use sour cream a lot too, rather than heavy cream or creme fraiche.
Garrett: agreed; if you don't use S&P at every cooking phase, you're going to be missing something.
Lydia: sugar is a smart, often overlooked secret ingredient--good one!
Anne Marie: love ginger, especially with garlic.
cpullum: good old onion soup--it still works!
Hilary: we're loving Korean flavors right now. I like the chile paste.
Carol: soy sauce definitely adds depth, but I'm recently loving miso paste too.
RJ: never used it, but I bet it's another oldie but goodie.
Judith: thank for saying mint! I love mint and goat cheese, especially in an omelet with zucchini!
Jennifer: any and all chile sauce is welcome around here.
Hillary: read everyone's great comments--I'm so impressed by people's tips.
Carolina: I love toasting and grinding my own spices, but I've done full-on garam masala.
J: Onions should go in everything:)
Charmain: VERY wise. It really all depends, but caramelizing is one of my favorite ways to build flavor.
Katelyn: Nutmeg's a great one! Use it as a secret ingredient in anything creamy...creamed spinach, gruyere souffle, artichoke dip.
Foodalogue: I use lemon all the time too! Some kind of acid can really lift most any dish.
Paula: great tips! Your jazzed up hummus sounds great.
Starre: I'm a sucker for truffles.
Jojo: bacon is good in almost anything.
Kam: I'm a big believer in fresh herbs--they're really worth it.
Peabody: It is a good one!
MG: miso in pesto is a brilliant trick!
Shannon: I totally admire your stock making ability. I've never quite gotten into it...sometime.

Mary from South Mississippi said...

Red curry powder! Oh my goodness - so good. I started off adding some to my stir fry dishes and found myself sneaking a bit of it into other dishes here and there. Today I minced onion and red pepper and sauteed that in olive oil, added some cooked brown rice and then seasoned the rice with salt, pepper and red curry powder! YumYum.

Mary from South Mississippi

Kevin said...

Ok... My secret to my pinto beans and a couple of other things is pickle juice. I add about a 1/4 cup to my finished pintos and a lot of people have told me they really enjoyed them.

Of course I am taking all of these great ideas in the comments as well. Thanks everyone!


Justin Marx said...

The number one thing that I do to flavor my food is to buy the freshest, best ingredients possible...which would ideally mean from the farmers market.

In terms of seasoning though, fennel pollen is a favorite secret's packs a powerful fennel punch, but is hard to see.

Julie said...

Mary: I love the flavor of curry powder.
Kevin: mom adds it to her "classic" macaroni salad, but using it in pinto beans is really imaginative. We add a chunk of cheddar cheese to our, but I'm trying the pickle juice too next time.
Justin: I want some fennel pollen! I've heard about it, but haven't seen it to purchase. Where do you buy it?

Emily from Virginia said...

After reading through the list of ingredients, I look at the spices and have found that adding a little bit of each spice to each ingredient in the dish creates a robust and flavorful dish. For example, when it comes to making a bolognese sauce. I add the italian spices (oregano, basil, parsley,a pinch of sesame seeds and a pinch of roasted red pepper flakes, garlic, salt and pepper) to the veggies, meat and finally the sauce. By adding a little bit of spice to each ingredient, each aspect of the sauce gets some spice love, instead of just the meat or just the veggies. The key is to be careful and add a little at a time so it's not garlic or pepper overload!

Heidi said...

Recently, I've been using a chipotle sauce/condiment in many dishes. Two of drops and a squeeze of lime in homemade chicken soup - and it's a whole new zesty soup.

Between the Sun and the Moon said...

The spice I use most in sweet as well as savory dishes is cinnamon. A hint of cinnamon in a stey is devine !


emily said...

I really enjoy adding a flavor that is an opposite, to bring out the dominant flavor in whatever dish i'm making. For example, a touch of honey in a marinara is awesome for bringing out the underlying sweetness of the tomato.