Tuesday, September 10, 2013

5 Unexpected Flavor Pairings

This post originally appeared at FoodRiot.com

There are certain foods that just go together: turkey and cranberries, tomatoes, and basil, peas and carrots...These are combinations you see on a menu and know right away that you'll like. But there are plenty of underappreciated flavor combinations out there just waiting to be discovered by those of us with a curious palette or a pantry full of back stock we're looking to get rid of. Here are some of my favorites:

Maple and Mustard

Trust me here. I was skeptical at first, too, but this is a great mix if you like the combination of sweet and savory. It's also something that certainly isn't overused, so every bite feels refreshing and multi-layered, especially if you're using spicy mustard.

Recipe: Mustard Maple Tofu

Coconut and Cinnamon

This one has a little bit of yin and yang going for it. Coconut says "beach." Cinnamon says "ski lodge." Put these two flavors together to create a playful dichotomy that blends surprisingly well.

Recipe: Summer French Toast

Vanilla and Kale

I'm usually not one to mix items from the baking aisle with those from the produce section. They even live in different rooms of my house (if you count the pantry as a room.) Baking and cooking are two very different things for me. Baking is what you do when you need to relax with a Law & Order rerun. Cooking is what you do when you come home from work and it's dinner time. Vanilla and kale are not meant to exist in the same universe. I guess for me the combination of these things is about eating outside my comfort zone.

Recipe: Vanilla Kale Smoothie

Avocado and Pomegranate

I know everybody loves avocados, but I'm still getting to know them. Very slowly. They don't really taste like anything, and, frankly, I'm squeamish about that soapy texture. I'm not sure I'll ever be able to just eat an avocado plain, but I really do love what it can do to enhance a dish that already has a bold flavor of its own. Enter the pomegranate seed: a perfect, tiny, sweet-tart burst of flavor in your mouth that lacks that robust feeling of actually making you full. The pomegranate's acid and the avocado's meatiness are a marriage made in heaven.

Recipe: Superfood Salad with Lemon Vinaigrette

Rum and Coffee

This one might not be too unexpected, as you'll find it in the relatively popular tiramisu, but I thought it was worth a mention because amid all the layering going on in that dessert, it's easy to forget that the real kicks of flavor you get are from these two bold, acquired tastes that many people find too abrasive to drink straight up.

Recipe: Tiramisu

What unsung food pairings have you discovered? What other recipes would work well with the ones mentioned here?

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