Tuesday, December 1, 2009

brave combinations

I have friends who are very dear to me- they are a couple who both like to cook, although he is regarded as the more skillful of the two. The three of us were having a conversation a while back about flavor combinations.
"How do you just know what to put together?"
This was her query. She felt like she could follow a recipe, but when faced with a myriad of ingredients, she was terrified to combine anything without full knowledge of what the result would be.
Her partner the cook had a good answer for her.
"Look to other cultures."
Sage advice. Look to the Italians to find the herbs that will make tomatoes shine. Thai cooking will teach endless perfect combinations that are tested and will always work. The list goes on and on. He is a very smart and thoughtful man. If you are having the same question, you should take his advice too.

I, on the other hand, am not always so thoughtful in the kitchen as I ought to be. Sometimes I am rushing or lazy, and I will act without pause. I have made some really bad food with this thoughtlessness. But there is another side to my recklessness. And this is where my advice comes from.
I think that the best way to develop a sense for what works together is to work up your courage and give it a shot. What's the worst that can happen? Well, you can make something really gross. Start a compost pile, and that way if you really have to throw it out, nothing is wasted.

So this is my combination of the day. Sliced turkey with monterey jack, mayonnaise, arugula and quince chutney.

Now you! Give us your best combination...


  1. Peanut butter, sriracha, lime juice, and udon noodles. A couple of other things, if you feel like it, but those are the bare bones. Endlessly satisfying, and pennies to make.

  2. When I was learning to cook, I often used a chart int he back of one of Mollie Katzen's books (The Enchanted Broccoli Forest?) that was based on that principle. It listed spices, herbs, and flavors based on ethnic cuisines. Helped me a ton to learn which things go together and complement one another.

  3. Avocado, red onion sliced thinly, crunchy lettuce or spinach, matchstick broccoli and carrots, dried cherries or fresh apples, sliced almonds, a bit of greek yogurt, and a mix of bragg amino and agave nectar sprinkled on, all on a favorite wrap (I like the Ezekial sprouted wraps from local health store). I love the crunchy, creamy, chewy, salty, sweet combo of it all.