I have a helper in the kitchen. That helper's name is The Flavor Bible, and it is my trusted assistant, mentor, and companion.
Written by Karen Page and Andrew Dornenberg, The Flavor Bible is the ultimate kitchen resource. The introduction speaks to the basics of creating well-balanced food, and alphabetical index of flavors, ingredients, and cuisines follows for the next 350 pages. You can search complimentary combinations for a particular ingredient, and classic pairings are also listed for each flavor or cuisine (sardines and olive oil, squash and nutmeg, etc). Scattered throughout the book are short essays from various chefs that inspire and inform, and add depth to the subject at hand. Despite the fact that there are no photos, no actual recipes, and the layout is remarkably simple, this book is really fun to read, even if you're just sitting on the couch and not cooking anything at all. Every time I pick it up, I feel like I learn something new and get inspired to create new dishes. The thing I like about it is that it feels approachable and accessible - this is not a book that is reserved only for the most elite chef. I think it is a great way to learn about "what goes with what" and feel confident in creating recipes and seasoning your food. I'm absolutely addicted to this book.
As a side note, my other two favorite kitchen reference books are The New Whole Foods Encyclopedia by Rebecca Wood (just recently updated, lucky you!) and Herbs & Spices by Jill Norman. Love them, love them, love them.
It was The Flavor Bible that inspired this dish. I had a ripe avocado, lovely locally grown organic apples, and a stray lime sitting in my fruit bowl, and an abundance of fresh herbs from my garden. I felt like there was potential there, and had some natural intuitive inclinations, but wasn't really sure. So, I did a little cross-referencing in The Flavor Bible. It gave me guidance and helped me select the proper combinations of ingredients, leading me toward accenting with fresh basil and chives. When it was all mixed up, I tasted it to add the final bit of saltiness and pepperiness, and was taken aback at the bright and unexpected flavor that transformed in my mouth as I chewed. I tasted each ingredient individually but could also sense the overall effect. It was lovely. The next bite was a little different; less basil, more chives, more apple, less celery. It had just enough crunch, acidity, sweetness, saltiness, bitterness - to me, it felt balanced.
Cooking is art and it takes practice. I think I'm getting better.
This recipe is my final contribution to the SOS Kitchen Challenge for this month, which ends tomorrow. The SOS Kitchen Challenge, hosted by Ricki from Diet, Dessert, and Dogs and me, is a monthly recipe challenge that focuses on whole foods recipes that are vegan and sugar-free. We often emphasize seasonal ingredients, and encourage creativity in both the sweet and savory realms. This month's featured ingredient is the apple, and we have received an amazing number of submissions so far. Check out the Linky below the recipe to see all the amazing apple recipes that our readers have entered in the challenge this month, and if you're feeling inspired, create one of your own (check out the rules here). The deadline is midnight CST September 30. Stay tuned for the round up and next month's kick-off - we're really excited about this next one. :)
This post is also linked to Real Food Wednesdays, hosted by Kelly the Kitchen Kop.
Apple & Avocado Salad with Fresh Herbs
Light, crunchy, and boldly flavored, this salad is quick to prepare and lovely to behold. It is both sweet and savory, and would go very well with grilled salmon, roasted chicken or pork, or Vietnamese cuisine. One note on the basil: I used purple ruffles basil from my garden, which has a spicy, assertive flavor more along the lines of Thai basil. If you can find purple ruffles basil or Thai basil, use it - otherwise, the more common sweet basil will also work. Just make sure your basil and chives are fresh, not dried.
2 medium apples (sweet and tart eating apple, like Honeycrisp)
1 large avocado (fully ripe but still a little firm)
2 medium celery stalks (preferably from the heart)
juice and zest of 1 large lime
2-3 Tbsp finely sliced fresh basil (cut in a chiffonade)
1 Tbsp finely chopped fresh chives
umeboshi plum vinegar, to taste
freshly cracked pepper, to taste
optional: nuts or seeds for garnish
Dice the apples and avocado and place in a bowl, sprinkling with lime juice immediately and tossing gently. Thinly slice celery on the diagonal and add to bowl. Toss gently to combine, then add fresh herbs, and toss again to incorporate. Season to taste with umeboshi plum vinegar and freshly cracked pepper, and serve immediately. Serve alone, or scoop onto lettuce leaves or a bed of mixed baby greens or scoop into baby Endive spears.