There are some dishes where even a carnivore won’t miss the meat because an explosion of flavors transcends every expectation. When you maximize flavor combinations, even the most ordinary dish becomes extraordinary.
So, you might ask, how does one learn to maximize flavor and become a culinary flavor superstar? A great starting point is the The Vegetarian Flavor Bible, by Karen Page and Andrew Dornenburg, a brand new and truly amazing reference book that allows you to unleash your inner creative chef and turn up the flavor volume way high in your cooking.
I recently attended a book-signing event for The Vegetarian Flavor Bible at Melissa’s Produce. As you can probably see by the photo below, I’m an unabashed fan of these two-time James Beard Award winners.
I already have Karen & Andrew’s book, The Flavor Bible. It is my go-to book when I need inspiration for creating a recipe or help with ingredient substitutions. The Vegetarian Flavor Bible expands into even greater detail about a wider range of plant-based ingredients, including vegetables, fruits, legumes, grains, nuts and more.
The book profiles hundreds of foods giving their peak seasons, botanical relatives, possible substitutes, pairings, nutritional profiles, serving suggestions, flavor volume levels (quiet to extremely loud) and other cooking tips. All this is what makes the book a must if you want to take your cooking to the next level.
We started our delicious meal with fresh vegetables and fruits from Melissa’s Produce.
Chef Tom Fraker walked us through all of the culinary delights prepared for us. My favorite was the Watermelon Radish Tacos. They’re crisp, slightly spicy, and taste like a spring garden in your mouth, in addition to being stunning on a plate.
Roasted Bell Pepper, Basil & Parmesan Hummus & Spanish Marinated Portobello Mushrooms with Dutch Yellow Potatoes
Roasted Parsnips, Carrots & San Marzano Tomatoes & Soy Sloppy Joes
These sandwiches were made with Melissa’s Soy Ground. I honestly couldn’t tell there wasn’t any meat in it. Quite amazing.
We all managed to save room for delicious Strawberry-Rhubarb Muffins topped with Ojai Pixie Tangerines.
Once our palates and stomachs were satisfied, Karen gave a compelling talk about her journey to becoming vegetarian. She had lost several family members to cancer, which made her rethink her carnivore ways. I, like her, was shocked to learn that the number-one cause of death in America is nutritionally controllable diseases such as cancer, heart disease, and diabetes. After eliminating meat Karen eliminated her digestive issues and lost 20 lbs. in the process.
Karen contends that a plant based diet is the healthiest way to eat. I agree, and this is one reason The Vegetarian Flavor Bible is a new staple in my kitchen even though I haven’t cut meat completely out.
Even if you consider yourself a committed carnivore, this book will help you create endless possibilities for astounding flavor combinations.
If you haven’t ever encountered a watermelon radish you are in for a real treat. Karen Page describes them in The Vegetarian Flavor Bible as slightly sweet, with notes of jicama and/or pepper. I say they look like summer and taste like spring, and inspire a masterpiece on a plate or canvas. (This is why I will leave describing food to the experts.)
Note: Watermelon radishes are an heirloom Chinese Daikon radish. It is a member of the Brassica (mustard) family along with arugula, broccoli and turnips. You can find them in higher end grocery stores and at local farmer’s markets.
- ½ Melissa's Kool Cabbage (or Napa cabbage), shredded
- ¼ red onion, diced small
- 2 each purple, yellow and orange baby carrots, tops removed; halved lengthwise; sliced thin
- 4 tablespoons seasoned rice vinegar
- 1 pinch kosher salt
- 1 pinch freshly ground pepper
- 1 Melissa's watermelon radish, sliced very thin
- 1 small bunch fresh cilantro, chopped fine
- 2 fresh limes, cut into small wedges
- 20 toothpicks
- Place the cabbage, red onion and carrots in individual bowls and add equal amounts of the rice vinegar. Season them with the salt and pepper and toss. Place equal amounts of the cabbage, onion and carrots onto each of the radish slices. Add the cilantro, fold them in half and secure with a toothpick. Serve with the lime wedges.
I love so many cookbooks for various reasons, but I don’t write about them. This book is one of my newest favorites along with The Flavor Bible. Even thought there aren’t any recipes in this book, the possibilities of new creations will keep you inspired for a lifetime.
Life is too short not to make food you love.
…and then, she paused for thought.