Love-hate relationship with a cookbook–and it’s only day 1.May 24, 2011 by Susie
Today I’m wrestling with an intriguing newcomer: The Cook’s Book of Intense Flavors, by Robert and Molly Krause. The premise of the book is fascinating: 101 unusual, vivid flavor combinations and recipes to go with them.
Each combination gets a thought-provoking character précis. Coffee, fig, and vinegar are characterized as “full-bodied complexity”; mushroom, rose and lavender as “opposites attract”. Some are faintly un-P.C., like “turnips in a kimono” (turnips, miso, mirin) or “Arabian Delight” (chickpea, edamame, and coriander). But the strange pairings are evocative and different enough for me to want to read the book for that alone.
And perhaps that will have to suffice, because I kept finding myself putting the book down in dissatisfaction. There’s just one recipe per flavor combination, making it hard to generalize from the theory of what makes it work. The experience is a little like those odd cookbooks that teach you how to improvise in the kitchen, but give you a recipe to do it…a strangely prescriptive experience. Or maybe I was looking for more substance–for the essays to explain why the flavors work together in a cultural-history context. I felt as though I was longing for a sonnet and was handed a haiku.
I don’t usually puzzle over cookbooks so much–I either like them, or I don’t, with only a little gray area. And I never find myself picking it up and putting it down repeatedly, the way I did with this one. So: thanks to EYB I know at least 4 of you have this book! Have you tested it? Do the recipes bear out their promise? Inquiring minds want to know!
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