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Sometimes, I look in my fridge, find an ingredient, and think “what goes with this?”. Since this blog has started, I’ve also been faced with the question of “huh. cashew day. I wonder what I should make?”. Sometimes it’s hard to know where to start.
I think matching food, building complimentary dishes, is somewhat of an art. We’ve all had those wondrous pairings, where you take a bite and think “Fantastic! I never would have thought of putting that together!”. But it isn’t all alchemy. There are some rules to be found. One of my old timey favorites is “what grows together, goes together” i.e. strawberries and rhubarb, both being spring produce, compliment each other nicely.
But what if you really want to explore flavour pairings? For my birthday this year, my sister bought me THE FLAVOR BIBLE by Karen Page and Andrew Dornenburg. This book looks at every ingredient you can think from the most basic to very exotic and lists out the best ingredients that go with it. It has the most recommended pairings bold and in capital letters. Find your ingredient, and then see what you should consider tossing in the pot with it. The book also recommends the method of cooking to get the best flavour from that ingredient. It’s not a cookbook per say, but more of a reference book – one website says ” a groundbreaking reference of contemporary compatible flavors that is as useful to anyone who cooks as a thesaurus is to anyone who writes.”
So, shall we try it, on today’s food? It’s National Asparagus Month (it’s also National Cherry Cobbler Day… but we’re letting the cobbler pass us by…). Lets see what they have to say about this spring veggie. Here is a shot of the first page about asparagus (click on the photo for a bigger view):
So lets see – Pecorino sounds good. Butter, of course. I have some peas and basil in the fridge, which are also listed. Finally, on the next page (not shown) I find SHALLOTS in bold all caps. And for techniques, I choose stir-fry/steam.
So, based on the book, here’s what I concocted:
DEANNA’S “FLAVOUR BIBLE” ASPARAGUS & PEAS
1/4 c shallots, finely chopped
1 bunch asparagus, cut in 3/4 inch pieces
1 cup frozen peas
1 tbls butter
1/2 tsp sea salt
1/4 c chopped fresh basil
2 tbls fresh grated pecorino
Melt the butter over medium heat in a sauce pan. Cook shallots for about 4 minutes, until just softened. Stir in asparagus, peas, salt and pepper to taste. Cover and cook over medium heat for 8 min. Stir in basil, recover and cook for an additional 2 min. By this point the veggies should be just al dente. Remove from heat, garnish with cheese, and enjoy.
I REALLY liked this dish. Everything seemed to sing – salty cheese, smooth butter, a little richness from the shallot, and fresh fresh vegetable *pop*. In fact I kind of wished I doubled the recipe and made more–it’s mostly healthy, and I could eat it by the bowlful. Hurrah for a new way to cook asparagus… and with the help of the Flavour Bible, almost anything else you can think of!