One of the most exciting cooking books to come out in a very long time is Karen Page and Andrew Dornenburg's joint effort The Flavor Bible (Hachett Books, 2008). This book is an absolute must have for the creative cook's kitchen!
The Flavor Bible is essentially an encyclopedia of ingredients and flavors; herbs, spices, meats, vegetables, grains, etc. Everything you can think of is listed alphabetically in these pages. With each entry is a list of other flavors and ingredients that pair well with that item. For example, let's say that I have almonds in my pantry and am trying to figure out what to do with them. I look up "Almonds" in The Flavor Bible and I find a lengthy list of things that work well with almonds. Some are obvious, of course, like chocolate, vanilla, and honey. Then come seasonings and flavors I hadn't thought of, like rosemary, plums, Italian sauces, and such. I also find recommended flavor combinations, like "almonds + chocolate + coconut" or "almonds + green anise + figs".
It's amazing how quickly this book became an indispensable part of my kitchen library! It's now the first book I pick up when I start planning a new recipe, or am trying to figure out something new and inventive to do with leftovers. The book has gotten me to consider flavor combinations that I might have overlooked if I were sticking to recipes tried and true.
The Flavor Bible took authors Page and Dornenburg eight years to put together. They drew upon the wisdom and experience of some of the country's most renowned palates, dozens of chefs whose knowledge gave this book the depth required to make it a truly effective tool for the modern cook. In addition to being an outstanding guide for ingredients, it contains helpful tips, dish ideas, recipes, antidotes and more. It is well worth the price and a fantastic gift for anyone you know who loves to cook!