This Wednesday marks the one-year anniversary of the publication of¬† The Flavor Bible, a book that should hold a prominent place in any curious cook’s library.¬† I’ve previously mentioned it here and here.

Recipes are lovely, and I can’t possible buy or read enough traditional cookbooks in this lifetime.¬† But there is another side to cooking that I think is just as important for cooks, especially home cooks, to explore.¬† It’s the improvisational side.¬† The process that starts with a blank slate of a clean kitchen and comes to life with one or two ingredients - something that looked particularly good at the store that week, a memory of a favorite dish, a scene from a movie, a song, a mood.

chicken-salad-figs-ss

To make something edible out of this process, it’s important to have a basic grasp of cooking fundamentals - how to saute, how to poach, how to steam, how to broil, etc.¬† But it’s also critically important to have a way to get your hungry head around the flavors before you begin, lest you waste perfectly good chocolate chip cookies by sullying them with mint (hypothetically, of course).¬†¬† Authors Karen Page and Andrew Dornenburg help guide this process by providing (though what can only have been a Herculean effort) an index of ingredients and the flavors that best compliment them.¬† Need a hand figuring out what to do with the basket of figs that called out to you at the farmers’ market?¬† Turn to page 162 and see the 70+ flavors that will best compliment them (personal favorite: goat cheese).

My own improvisational process has benefited greatly from The Flavor Bible, and I’m happy to help Page and Dornenburg celebrate the anniversary of this wonderful text.