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Agrodolce…and more culinary tools

So, you know how I was mentioning how having the right tools is so important? I wanted to add something I picked up from Chef Skye Gyngell. (This is an Australian-born U.K. chef I’ve never met, whose restaurant I’ve never been to – but who I admire so much!) Just to give you a sense — thanking her mother in one of her cookbooks, Skye wrote the following, “her mind is like a magic box full of amazing thoughts and dreams”.

A magic box!!

When Skye talks about her culinary toolbox, it’s full of ingredients she likes to have on hand — staples like slow-roasted tomatoes, infused oils (garlic, chile, lemon, for instance), braised lentils, and toasted nuts. But, she also writes about a concept as a tool that she puts in her food. It’s called agrodolce.

She writes, “The principle of agrodolce is essentially about achieving balance and harmony from contrasting tastes — salty (or savory) and sweet pulling against each other, yet complementing each other completely. It belongs in the toolbox because it is a concept that I love and one I find myself using time and time again.”

Gives one pause, right? I’m going to start following Skye’s lead on this, thinking about the organizing principles behind the dishes I love to eat or make.

To give you just one quick example of agrodolce, Skye loves sweet potato dishes. In one of her recipes for a sweet potato puree, she adds maple syrup, tamari, and a red chile. Then she instructs the reader to fiddle around until you taste that balance of flavors. She writes, “Like a set of old-fashioned scales, the ideal balance lies in the middle, yet it takes very little (in the way of sweet or salty) to tilt it out of kilter in either direction. When it is well-achieved, agrodolce creates a strong, clear, harmonious flavor that is deeply satisfying…”

Try it and let me know what you think!

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