“Which research sources, websites, & books are you finding most helpful as a starting place in these meal plannings?“
I’m a bit of a counterintuitive meal planner in that I start by thinking “huh, I wonder if that’s a thing,” and then I look it up, and then I decide how I want to make it.
So for example, I might start by thinking “it’s gonna be hot next week; a kale salad sounds nice.” Then I think back to the last time I made a kale salad. “Chicken and cannellini beans with a lemon-herb vinaigrette. Alright, alright, alright, how shall I spin it this time… Maybe some red onions?”
And then I start searching online for “kale and red onion salad.” Or “kale and chickpea salad.” Or whatever other combination of 2-3 ingredients strikes my fancy. I’m looking for other folks who have started with that combination and to see what other flavors they’ve layered on top.
For me, it’s less about starting with specific sites and more about “crowd-sourcing” my flavor profiles. The many, many wonderful foodies out there provide the inspiration (that’s the key word here) for the next several ingredients I add to my concoction, and I shape it all with my particular flavor palette (or, when I’m cooking for Charlie, her flavor palette).
The reality is that I’m not looking for a recipe to follow (even if I start with one, it’s never where I’m gonna end up), but someone to either confirm my instincts (yes! Those flavor combos will meld!) or to open my mind to possibilities I would never have considered.
Other than generic searches, the most frequently used reference in my kitchen is the magnificent book The Flavor Bible: The Essential Guide to Culinary Creativity, Based on the Wisdom of America’s Most Imaginative Chefs, by Andrew Dornenburg & Karen Page. By looking up one ingredient, you get dozens of flavor pairing recommendations, enough to delight any foodie!