I do a ton of recipe writing, and one of the issues I often run into is trying to discover interesting flavor combinations, and finding inspiration for partially completed dishes.
Sometimes I will have the base flavors of a dish figured out but need to know how to best compliment them, and other times I'll know I need to write a recipe for a certain ingredient (say "duck" or "asparagus") and I'm looking for inspiration on how to pair it.
When I am in this bind, there are two books I reach for.
If I am brainstorming recipes and flavor combinations, The Flavor Bible, by Karen Page and Andrew Dornenburg is my go-to reference.
I can look up the known ingredients and it'll give me a list of other ingredients that are commonly paired with it. It ranks the ingredients by how strongly they have been paired in the past, so you can see what are the common pairings and which ones might be more unusual. They accomplished this by talking to many professional cooks and comparing the flavor pairings among them all.
I can then easily pick and choose ones that I think would work well for the specific dish I am working on.
They also have a vegetarian version as well.
The second book I turn to is The Flavor Matrix, by James Briscione. It takes a unqiue approach by breaking down the flavor and smell constituants of food and finding complementary pairings by examining them.
James also worked on a book with the team behind IBM Watson about using artificial intelligence to create new recipes, called Cognitive Cooking With Chef Watson. It's filled with unique flavor pairings and really creative dishes.
His work on the Chef Watson project helped inform his methodology to The Flavor Matrix, resulting in a fascinating approach to flavor pairing that I've really enjoyed exploring.
I also know James and he's always been super friendly when I see him, which is a great bonus! I consistently love to support approachable, friendly people when given the choice!
I've written more than 500 recipes so far and with these two books on my shelf, I'm never at a loss for what should go into a new one!
If you want some more tips and tricks I use for recipe writing, you can check out these articles: