The Flavor Bible, by Karen Page and Andrew Dornenburg, is my new favorite cookbook. (Its full title is The Flavor Bible: The Essential Guide to Culinary Creativity, Based On The Wisdom of America's Most Imaginative Chefs, but like I'm going to call it by its complete name).
I think of The Flavor Bible as a cookbook, but it doesn't actually have any recipes. Instead, the book has lists of what ingredients and flavor work well together. Its basically The Most Amazing Flavor Index Ever. For example, I recently had some fennel in the fridge. I wanted to roast the fennel and mix it with some pasta, but I thought the dish needed something else. According to The Flavor Bible, goat cheese compliments fennel. The resulting dish - roasted fennel and goat cheese pasta - is one of the best things I've ever cooked; and I didn't even need a recipe.
I used to be a cook who relied heavily on recipes. I was too afraid to just invent a dish on my own. With The Flavor Bible, I have overcome my recipe addiction. Also, The Flavor Bible is great if you just want to know what vegetable goes best with your protein.
If I have any downtime while I'm preparing dinner, I just flip through this tome for inspiration. Gruyere pairs nicely with garlic? I had no idea. Leeks work well with mustard? Interesting. And pork tenderloin works well with artichokes? That sounds like a delicious summer dinner!
If you have any interest in cooking, I cannot recommend The Flavor Bible highly enough.