Chefs experiment with flavor combinations
Dynamic duos such as onion and garlic, oregano and basil or lemon and pepper are flavor combinations we’ve gotten used to. But, there’s a delicious new world of flavor matchmaking going on as chefs season with a touch of surprise.
At Five & Ten restaurant in Athens, chef/partner Hugh Acheson’s new take on citrus paired with a bit of heat arrives with seafood. An appetizer of marinated anchovies and pink grapefruit segments dotted with black pepper is a marvelous mix.
Anchovies, by the way, are an excellent source of heart healthy Omega-3 fatty acids and these tiny fish are very low in mercury so you can eat them often.
Do you like hot sauce on oysters? Most folks eat them that way. But, oysters on the half shell at Rouge Tomate in New York are topped with pineapple, ginger and mint. Marmalade of shallots and prunes perks up poultry. Lemongrass-ginger oil with jalapeno pairs with fresh fish.
Natalia Hancock, culinary nutritionist with Rouge Tomate, works with executive chef Jeremy Bearman to find flavor combinations which are not only mouth-watering, they have to be healthful, too. “There’s nothing better than when the worlds of nutrition and food collide.”
While the seasonal dishes are designed to fit within a healthy range of calories, there are no numbers on the menu. Hancock, trained as a chef and dietitian, says the food philosophy at Rouge Tomate prioritizes the quality of calories.
“I choose certain ingredients for a dish not just because they taste good together, but because they improve the overall nutritional profile of the recipe. A bit of olive oil in a sauce helps you better absorb vitamin A, for instance, in the vegetables,” Hancock says.
Sometimes appreciating a specific flavor means finding it in a variety of forms. In their annual Flavor Forecast, chefs and other food experts at McCormick & Company identified the “quest for the ultimate” as one of 2012's trends.
For example, combining Meyer lemon with lemon thyme, Limoncello and Lemon Peel is described as the “ultimate lemon” taste experience. Flavors known for their cooling effects such as dill, mint, melon and cucumber are combined to create the “ultimate refresher.”
At Five and Ten, diners can find a new way to satisfy their fish with lemon craving with Rainbow Trout stuffed with thinly sliced fennel and preserved lemons. At Seasons 52, the spring menu brings lemon to the table in a new way with Steelhead Trout in a lemongrass sauce.
World of Flavors
Since borrowing from the spice cabinet of world cuisines, cooks are continually inspired to try new things. McCormick’s trend watchers identify Korean pepper paste and Moroccan harissa as bold flavors showing up in everything from barbecue to baked vegetables.
Chef Marvin Woods, author of The New Low-Country Cooking, which explores the influence of Africa, France, Spain and the Caribbean on southern regional foods says “It’s great to extend your knowledge. There are no boundaries and its like ‘Wow! They did that?’ and it makes you want to run with it.”
Woods, who shares healthy southern recipes on his website www.chefmarvinwoods.com such as Lamb Burgers with Orange and Mango Ketchup, says: “Too often people think they will lose something when they hear its ‘healthy food’, but you’re adding fantastic flavors with spices and herbs.”
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