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13 Never-Fail Flavor Combinations

Mouthwatering Matches

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Making a meal shouldn’t be complicated, and with these perfect food pairings from my new book The Kitchy Kitchen, you’ll discover how easy it is to turn a few basic ingredients into your amazing soups, salads, sandwiches, and more. No need to buy a ton of things and spend an hour measuring and chopping. These recipes require minimal prep work, and while they taste gourmet, anyone can prepare them, even if the only other thing you can “cook” is PB&J.

Tomato + Mozzarella + Basil

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Salad: Layer 1/4-inch slices of tomato with 1/4-inch slices of bufala mozzarella and chiffonade basil. Drizzle with olive oil and balsamic vinegar, and sprinkle with kosher salt and freshly cracked pepper.

Sandwich: Layer the same ingredients from above between 2 slices of crusty sourdough bread. Drizzle bread with a little olive oil and cook in a sauté pan over medium heat, pressing down, until golden brown. Flip and press down again.

Pasta: Combine cubed mozzarella, chopped basil, and halved or quartered cherry tomatoes with your favorite short pasta. Season with olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and salt and pepper.

Pizza: Preheat oven at top temperature with a pizza stone in the center for at least 1 hour. Roll out dough, rub with olive oil, and layer with shredded mozzarella. Top with thinly sliced tomato. Bake for about 10 minutes until pizza is bubbly on top and dark on the bottom. Top with fresh chiffonade basil.

Browned Butter + Sage + Squash/Pumpkin/Yams

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Side: Cube squash, pumpkin, or yams. Season with salt, pepper, and oil, and roast until caramelized. Melt butter in a small pot over medium heat, add sage, and cook until butter is golden brown and smelling nutty. Immediately pour brown butter and crispy sage over roasted vegetables.

Salad: Take the side from above and combine it with equal parts quinoa or farro, half as much arugula, and some chopped pecans. For a fresh pop of flavor, add pomegranate seeds.

Soup: In a large pot, sauté chopped onion, carrot, and celery in a touch of oil until onion is golden brown at the edges. Add squash (prepared as in the side above), cover with stock, and simmer for 20 minutes. Purée thoroughly, adding a scoop of Greek yogurt for a bit of richness and bite. Garnish with browned butter and sage.

Pizza: Preheat oven at top temperature with a pizza stone in the center for at least 1 hour. Roll out dough, rub with olive oil, and top with taleggio or another gooey, slightly strong cheese. Top with squash, prepared as in the side above. Bake for about 3 minutes, crack an egg on top, and bake for another 7 minutes until pizza is bubbly on top and dark on bottom, and egg is cooked medium. Drizzle with brown butter and sage, and pile fresh arugula on top.

Citrus + Fennel + Arugula

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Salad: Peel citrus (oranges or grapefruit are best). Slice off top and bottom, then carefully slice segments out between white membrane. Chop top and bottom off fennel and thinly slice crosswise (a mandoline works great). Combine citrus, fennel, and arugula in a bowl, and add a creamy element like avocado or goat cheese. Make vinaigrette by combining juice from citrus with an equal amount of lemon juice. Combine with olive oil (1 part juice to 3 parts oil) and season. Drizzle over salad.

Sandwich: Roast thinly sliced fennel until caramelized. Sandwich between 2 slices toasted sourdough with roasted chicken or fish marinated in the citrus vinaigrette from above, arugula, and a touch of olive oil.

Garnish: Finely chop kalamata olives and fennel. Combine with a bit of lemon juice, orange juice, minced garlic, and chili flakes. Mix with arugula and a little olive oil. Pour over cooked fish or chicken, or serve with pita.

Balsamic Vinegar + Strawberries + Black Pepper

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Dessert: Hull and slice strawberries, and top with a drizzle of balsamic vinegar and a sprinkle of black pepper. (Add a little sugar if strawberries are naturally tart.) Let sit for about 15 minutes until quite juicy. Serve over Greek yogurt, ice cream, or panna cotta.

Sauce: Prepare strawberries as for the dessert above. Cook in a pot over medium heat until a thin syrup forms. Let cool and use (strained or unstrained) as desired, or try as the base of barbecue sauce for a sweet and piquant twist.

Salad: Combine sliced strawberries, arugula, toasted walnuts, and balsamic vinaigrette. Add fresh goat cheese and season with black pepper.

Crostata: Roll out pie dough into an 11-inch round, place on a rimmed baking sheet lined with parchment paper, and spread with 3/4 cup mascarpone cheese. Fold outer inch of dough around cheese. Top with sliced strawberries, a little freshly ground black pepper, and a drizzle of balsamic vinegar. Bake at 400 degrees for about 30 minutes until strawberries are caramelized and pie crust is just barely golden brown. Top with fresh sliced strawberries and drizzle with honey.

Beets + Creamy Cheese + Balsamic Vinegar

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Salad: Wash, dry, and remove greens from beets. Coat in olive oil, season with salt and pepper, wrap in foil, and roast in a baking pan at 400 degrees for about 45 minutes until fork-tender. Let cool, then peel off skin. Thinly peel and then shave a second set of fresh beets crosswise into circles. Combine fresh and roasted beets with mint, goat cheese, and balsamic vinaigrette.

Side: Serve roasted beets from above mounded over burrata or ricotta cheese with balsamic drizzled on top. Garnish with walnuts for a bit of texture.

Onion + Corn + Cilantro

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Side: Sauté finely chopped onion, minced garlic, and corn kernels in butter until onion is golden brown and corn is cooked through. In the last moment, stir in roughly chopped cilantro and cotija or feta cheese. Top with chili powder.

Salad: Grill corn and thinly sliced red onion. Combine with black beans, green onion, cilantro, avocado, and spinach. Toss in a simple lime vinaigrette.

Pizza: Preheat oven at top temperature with a pizza stone in the center for at least 1 hour. Roll out dough, rub with olive oil, and top with feta and mozzarella cheese. Add corn and onion sautéed as in the side above. Bake for about 10 minutes until pizza is bubbly on top and dark on bottom. Sprinkle with finely chopped cilantro.

Soup: Sauté finely chopped onion, minced garlic, and corn kernels in butter until onion is golden brown and corn is cooked through. Add cumin and finely chopped cilantro. Cover with 1 part milk and 1 part stock; bring to a simmer. Purée, if desired, and season to taste.

Eggs: Preheat broiler. Sauté finely chopped onion, minced garlic, and corn kernels in butter until onion is golden brown and corn is cooked through. Pour whisked eggs over vegetables and cook for about 4 minutes without stirring. Broil until golden brown and puffed, about 3 to 4 minutes. Top with cilantro pesto (made like regular pesto, but with cilantro in place of basil).

Cilantro + Avocado + Lime

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Salad: Thickly slice avocado and combine with butter lettuce and favorite fresh vegetables. Make a cilantro lime vinaigrette by combining 1 tablespoon each finely chopped cilantro and lime juice, and 3 tablespoons olive oil. Season to taste, pour over salad, and toss.

Garnish: Combine chopped cilantro and diced avocado with diced jalapeño and minced garlic, if desired. Drizzle with lime juice. Season with salt and pepper, and serve on top of anything.

Salsa: Combine finely chopped cilantro, diced avocado, diced jalapeño, minced garlic, diced mango, and finely chopped red onion. Drizzle with lime juice and season with a little ground cumin, ancho chili powder, and salt and pepper. Serve on top of anything.

Spinach + Pine Nuts + Parmigiano

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Side: Toast pine nuts and set aside. Heat a little olive oil in a sauté pan and add a little minced garlic and lots of spinach. Sauté until spinach is completely wilted and excess liquid has mostly cooked off; season with salt and pepper. Add grated Parmigiano and stir to combine. Serve hot.

Salad: Toast pine nuts and set aside. Shave Parmigiano into large pieces or make Parmigiano chips (place small mounds of grated Parm on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. Press mounds down and bake at 300 degrees for 5 to 6 minutes until golden brown. Let cool completely). Combine fresh spinach, toasted pine nuts, and raisins or dried cranberries with red wine vinaigrette. Top with shaved Parm or Parm crisps.

Soup: Toast pine nuts. Sauté finely chopped onion and fennel with minced garlicl in a little butter until onion is golden brown. Add toasted pine nuts and chopped spinach; cook until spinach is wilted, about 5 minutes. Cover with 1 part whole milk and 1 part stock; bring to a simmer. Purée and season to taste. For richness, stir in a little Greek yogurt before serving.

Pasta: Toast pine nuts and set aside. Sauté garlic and spinach as in the side dish above. Meanwhile, cook favorite pasta to al dente, strain, and add to spinach mixture. Drizzle with olive oil, add grated Parmigiano, and stir to combine. Serve hot.

Eggs: Take the side dish from above and divide evenly into several 8-ounce buttered ramekins. Top each ramekin with 1 egg, touch of cream, and salt and pepper. Bake at 400 degrees for 10 to 15 minutes, until egg white is set and yolk is medium. Serve with grilled or toasted bread.

Walnuts + Honey + Cheese

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Cake: Make 20 crepes; let cool. Place 1 crepe on a serving plate and spread with a mixture of equal parts mascarpone and whipped cream. Drizzle with honey and top with finely chopped walnuts. Add another crepe on top, layer with the toppings, and repeat with the remaining crepes until the stack resembles a cake. Finish with honey and walnuts.

Cinnamon Buns: Try a baklava-inspired version by filling the buns with a mixture of finely chopped walnuts, honey, and cinnamon. Serve with your favorite cream cheese glaze.

Pizza: Preheat oven at top temperature with a pizza stone in the center for at least 1 hour. Make walnut pesto by combining walnuts, milk, Parmigiano, garlic, and a touch of nutmeg in a food processor until creamy. Roll out dough, rub with olive oil, and spread with 2 to 3 tablespoons walnut pesto. Top with Taleggio or another gooey, slightly strong cheese. Bake for about 10 minutes until pizza is bubbly on top and dark on bottom. Drizzle with honey.

Side: The easiest side in the world is a cheese board, so combine your favorite cheese with walnuts, honey, and a seasonal fruit (pears, apricots, apples, figs, and grapes work best) and enjoy the simplicity. Consider these wine and cheese pairings to find the best drink to serve.

Sandwich: Make walnut pesto as in the pizza recipe above. Spread on 1 slice sourdough bread, top with a melty cheese like comté, drizzle with a little honey, and another another slice of bread on top. Drizzle outside of bread with a little olive oil or spread with butter, and cook in a sauté pan over medium heat, pressing down, until golden brown. Flip and press down again until bread is golden brown and cheese is melted as desired.

Garlic + Chili + Tomato + Lemon

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Soup: Chop tomatoes and sprinkle with salt. Let stand for 15 minutes, then drain, saving juice. Purée tomatoes and press through a sieve, adding that liquid to reserved juice. Combine juice with garlic, a little jalapeño, a squeeze of lemon juice, and your favorite herbs (basil or cilantro are particularly good in this), and purée in a blender. (For a touch of sweetness, add a little mango or pineapple.) Chill completely before serving.

Salad: Halve cherry tomatoes and combine with cooked garbanzo beans, cooked quinoa, arugula, and fresh soft herbs (mint, basil, parsley, and cilantro are good picks). Make a vinaigrette by combining minced garlic, dried chili flakes, and 1 part lemon juice to 3 parts olive oil. Toss everything together.

Pizza: Preheat oven at top temperature with a pizza stone in the center for at least 1 hour. Roll out dough, rub with olive oil, spread a little minced garlic on top, and layer with shredded mozzarella. Top with thinly sliced tomato, thinly sliced chilies, small peeled and deveined raw shrimp, if desired. Bake for about 10 minutes until pizza is bubbly on top and dark on bottom. Squeeze lemon juice over top.

Side: Place halved tomatoes (Romas work best) cut-side-up on a rimmed baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Drizzle with olive oil and season with salt, pepper, and a bit of thyme or oregano. Roast at 425 degrees for about 30 minutes or until tomatoes are caramelized and blistered on the bottom. (It's important that they're cut-side-up, as this will keep the juices contained as they concentrate down.) Make a vinaigrette by combining minced garlic, dried chili flakes, and 1 part lemon juice to 3 parts olive oil. Pour vinaigrette over tomatoes while still warm, let them marinate for about 10 minutes, then serve.

Eggs: Take the side dish from above and divide evenly among several buttered 8-ounce ramekins. Top each with 1 cracked egg, a touch of cream, grated cheese, and salt and pepper. Bake at 400 degrees for 10 to 15 minutes until egg white is set and yolk is medium. Serve with grilled or toasted bread.

Seafood + Fennel + Tomato

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Soup: Sauté finely chopped onion, minced garlic, and finely chopped fennel in a little butter until onion is golden brown. Season with salt and pepper. Add 1 glass white wine to deglaze the pan, then pour in 1 can (28 ounces) diced tomatoes and seafood of choice, such as shrimp, clams, or 1-inch chunks of dense fish like halibut or cod. Simmer everything until seafood is just cooked, then stir in chopped basil or parsley and a little extra butter. Season to taste and serve over pasta or rice.

Main: In a large pot, sauté thinly sliced shallot, thinly sliced garlic, and thinly sliced fennel in a little butter or oil until onion is golden brown. Add wedged tomatoes, a little fresh parsley, sliced garlic, sliced lemons, and sliced chilies. Add your favorite cleaned bivalve (clams or mussels) and pour in a little white wine or dry vermouth (about 1 1/2 cups of liquid to 4 pounds of shellfish). Cook, covered, over medium-high heat for 5 to 6 minutes or until shellfish open. Serve with grilled bread.

Pizza: Preheat oven at top temperature with a pizza stone in the center for at least 1 hour. Roll out dough, rub with olive oil, spread a little minced garlic on top, and layer with shredded mozzarella. Top with thinly sliced tomato and raw clams (removed from shells) or small raw, peeled, and deveined shrimp. Bake for about 10 minutes until pizza is bubbly on top and dark on bottom. Drizzle with a little more olive oil.

Carrots + Ginger + Cumin

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Salad: Thinly shave peeled carrots into ribbons. Make a quick vinaigrette with ginger, cumin, red wine vinegar, and olive oil. Toss with thinly sliced fennel, parsley, and arugula.

Side: Peel carrots (halve if they're large), and coat in olive oil, grated ginger, and ground cumin. Season with a little salt and pepper. Roast at 425 degrees for 25 minutes. In the last 5 minutes, glaze carrots with a little honey for sweetness.

Soup: Take the roasted carrots from the side dish above and roughly chop. In a large pot, sauté 1 chopped onion, some minced garlic cloves, and chopped celery in olive oil until golden brown. Add a little extra cumin, salt, pepper, and some smoked paprika. Add roasted carrots, chicken stock, and some coconut milk. Purée and keep adding liquid until soup reaches desired consistency.

Tomatoes + Cucumbers + Fresh Herbs

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Crudités: Combine basil, mint, and parsley with pine nuts, Parmigiano, garlic, and olive oil in a food processor until very loose and dip-able. Serve with sliced cucumber and cherry tomatoes.

Salad: Halve tomatoes and peel and thinly slice cucumber. Combine with roughly chopped mint, parsley, and basil. Add some thinly sliced red onion, dried oregano, chili flakes, and salt and pepper. Let it all sit for 15 minutes and serve.

Soup: Roughly chop tomatoes and sprinkle with salt. Let them sit for 20 minutes, then purée with cucumber and fresh herbs. Add some chopped mango for a bit of sweetness and sriracha for heat. Season to taste and chill in the fridge for 2 hours before serving.

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