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Culinary Curiosities

Culinary Curiosities

Unlikely Food Pairings can be Surprisingly Delicious  

By Deborah Holmen, M.Ed., NBCT   

What happens when culinarians step out of their comfort zones and experiment with food pairings that are a little out of the ordinary? Surprisingly, some odd combinations can create a harmonious symphony of flavors, taking the taste buds on a wild adventure. 

Several years ago, bartenders caramelized bacon with maple syrup creating a smoky, sweet flavor delight to garnish the Bloody Mary. More recently, a New York Times food editor suggested that peanut butter pickle sandwiches were a culinary treat that could transcend even the biggest doubters. Now, many home chefs like Daphna Ariel are throwing all cravings into the mix to make incredible concoctions that just somehow work. 

“Really, it is about making what you love, or [are] craving, and thinking outside of the box. Recently, I made almond cookies and kicked it up a notch by adding rose petals,” Ariel said.  

“I’m driven by an ingredient that could be a vegetable, a protein, a spice or a cuisine or country’s dish. I don’t necessarily look up the recipe. Rather, I’ll make it my own using what I have at the moment on hand, which can lead to some exciting combinations. 

“The dish might start with an idea and then turn into something entirely different at the end. My gut often just wants to play and combine variables ‘just because,’” she said. 

 Ariel suggests taking a craving and going with it. “The ultimate dish could have two or more of the primary flavors- salty, sweet, sour, and umami- that essence of deliciousness in Japanese, often described as the meaty, savory deliciousness that deepens the flavor,” she said. 

Perfectly Peculiar Pairings 

Ariel adds one surprising ingredient to any tomato-based dish. “One of my secret ingredients is unsweetened cocoa powder. It’s an Aztec tradition, like Molé. It helps to reduce the acidity and tartness in the tomatoes and makes the dish richer.”  

Other surprising combinations can excite the culinary experience. Starting with a classic “sweet meets savory” case – chocolate and avocado. At first glance, this combination seems like a recipe for disaster. However, something magical happens when a bite of rich, creamy avocado is paired with velvety dark chocolate. The buttery texture of the avocado enhances the smoothness of the chocolate, creating a decadent treat that is both indulgent and wholesome. 

Olive oil and ice cream are next on the journey of strangely yummy food pairings. Yes, that is right – olive oil and ice cream. Olive oil, known for its rich and fruity taste, may seem like an odd addition to a sweet and creamy dessert. Drizzling high-quality olive oil over a scoop of vanilla ice cream adds a luxurious touch and a depth of flavor that will surely surprise those adventurous enough to try it. The smoothness of the ice cream, combined with the subtle bitterness of the olive oil, creates a unique sensation that is both refreshing and satisfying. 

See Also

Pair fruit and balsamic vinegar for a sweet and tangy taste. A snack of cantaloupe and yogurt with balsamic is a winning combination. The tartness of balsamic vinegar enhances the natural sweetness of the fruit. Drizzle it over ripe strawberries and yogurt or reduce it into a thick syrup for a delicious dessert. 

Get A Little Weird with It   

Ariel prefers salty and savory combinations to sweet ones, but she knows that adding the two is an unexpected treat. Ice cream is a standard vehicle for combining sweet and savory foods. Peanut butter ice cream with Thai seasonings is a tasty example.  

“My favorite food pairings are combining different ethnic and cultural groups. Taking Asian spices to a dish that usually has Italian seasonings switches it up and makes it fun for the meal.” According to Ariel, “It is really just taking what you love and getting outside of the box with cooking. You really can’t go wrong.” 

Joining together unexpected ingredients and flavors can lead to delightful discoveries. Do not be afraid to step outside of that kitchen comfort zone and take risks. Embrace the excitement of trying something unusual. A new favorite dish might just be waiting on the other side. 

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