Tuesday, January 12, 2010

A Match Made in Mango

Some things just don’t taste good together. Consider exhibit one: the Full House episode where little Michelle Tanner, eager to earn a Honeybee badge, creates ‘recipes’ by combining her favorite foods…things like tuna and ice cream, or maybe it was Oreos. And what about the ol’ no cheese with seafood rule? Sure, like all rules, there are exceptions (for instance, tuna cheddar melt…not tuna ice cream melt though) but for the most part, a light, fresh fish does not benefit from the sharp, salty, overpowering mustiness of cheese. I don’t think it takes a great chef, or even a good home cook to figure out what combinations absolutely do not work. But does it take a great culinary genius to figure out what flavors do go together?

I was having one of those ‘feel sorry for myself’ days last week, and to cheer myself up I did what most great women do—I bought myself something (spare me the feminist rant… you know a new pair of shoes makes you feel better every time!). Instead of a fabulous new pair of shoes, or a purse, or bath soaps, or another favorite pick-me-up, vodka, I bought myself a book. This book. The Flavor Bible. This giant text book sized mammoth of a book is supposed to be everything its title describes it to be… the bible of flavor combinations. It’s supposed to be a beacon of inspiration for the amateur cook all the way up to the restaurant chef de cuisine. Pages, upon pages, upon pages of flavor combos. Want to know what pairs well with artichokes? Refer to the bible. How about figs? Check the bible. Quail? Bible. It’s all in there.

But… really, corn and salt go well together!? Get outta here! And cinnamon and apples? Who knew!? From my initial thumbing of the Bible’s pages, I’m feeling a little bit like I spent $35 to learn that umbrellas and rain go together. That being said, I want to give the book another chance. I’m hoping my reading thus far was too brief to fully appreciate the nearly 400 pages of flavor pairings. If the book works like it’s supposed to, maybe one of these days I’ll have turbot in my shopping cart, and I’ll make a fabulous fish-dish based on the Bible’s suggested pairings. Or maybe I’ll see something crazy and foreign to me at the Farmer’s Market, like purslane, and I’ll feel confident that the book will guide me in it’s usage (pairs well with green beans, in fact). Or maybe it will simply give me the inspiration I need to get dinner on the table, when I have a cupboard full of uninspired odds and ends (neither ice cream or oreos pair well with Tuna, according to the Bible).

For the time being, however, I think that I’m doing just fine putting flavors together on my own. I mean, if I can get Evan to eat brown rice AND mango, I must be doing something right! We had a simple semi-homemade dinner last night that Evan actually devoured, despite his affinities to the aforementioned items. Black bean mango chicken over green chili brown rice.

The juicy tart mango chunks combined with grilled cumin-spiced chicken, (a can of) black beans, and red onion slivers served over (a microwave packet of) brown rice mixed with (a can of) green chilies and a splash of pineapple juice provided a perfect balance of sweet, salty, and savory. And I didn’t need a book to tell me that…one Honeybee badge, coming right up!

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