We all know and love peanut butter and jelly, a food pairing so inspired that it can instantly transport us right back to our childhood, enjoying a PB&J with a glass of milk.
The salty nuttiness of the peanut butter is perfectly complimented by the sweetness of the jelly; whether it’s strawberry, apricot, or grape, the two elements bring out the best in each other when you put them together. It’s a beautiful thing.
But peanut butter and jelly aren’t the only two ingredients that make this kind of magic together — there are a whole slew of flavors out there just waiting to be combined and elevate each other in the same way. And how better to celebrate Valentine’s Day than by celebrating eight more flavor pairings that have mastered the healthy relationship?
1. Beets And Goat Cheese
(Image: New York Times)
There’s a reason every restaurant you go to has a beet and goat cheese salad on the menu. Not only does the whiteness of the cheese look beautiful against the deep red of the beets, but its creamy tang matches perfectly with the beets’ earthy sweetness. Roast the beets, add the cheese, and drizzle a balsamic vinaigrette over the top, and you’re in business.
2. Bacon And Maple
(Image: The Clever Carrot)
The mark of a perfect food pairing is that you don’t need to add anything but the two main ingredients to make it ethereal, and that’s what we found in maple and bacon. The pure candy goodness of maple syrup coating the deep smokiness of really good slab bacon? We’re drooling right now just thinking about it.
3. Tomato And Basil
(Image: Simply Recipes)
We’d love to take credit for this one, but obviously Italians have been on to this amazing food partnership for centuries now. Because tomato and basil are already such perfect mates, you can combine them in a bowl to create quick, vibrant summer dishes like bruschetta, or use them as the base for a deep, layered sauce that develops over hours of simmering. It’s up to you!
4. Lemon And Ricotta
(Image: Cooking Classy)
If you’ve never had a lemon ricotta pancake at a restaurant, you haven’t lived. The light pucker of the citrus perfectly enhances the mild creaminess of the ricotta, each one showing off the other’s strengths by highlighting their differences. And you don’t need to make pancakes to make this one work, either. Fresh ricotta on a toasted cut of fresh bread is made whole when topped with a squeeze of fresh lemon and a sprinkle of zest.
5. Duck And Cherries
(Image: New York Times)
Duck is a rich-tasting but surprisingly lean meat, so when it’s cooked properly and spooned over with a decadent cherry sauce, you end up with the perfect juicy bite that would impress anyone as the centerpiece for a holiday dinner. The pungent but sweet sauce can provide a simple, perfect balance to a lean meat that is often intimidating to home cooks.
6. Apples And Cheddar
(Image: I Am A Food Blog)
It might sound counterintuitive if you didn’t grow up eating it this way, but gently melting a slice of savory Cheddar cheese over a wedge of apple pie adds layers of intricate flavor you might not expect from such a singular pantry staple. And if you’re looking for a less time-intensive preparation, apples and Cheddar also pair beautifully in grilled cheese, or even raw, as a snack—we recommend Honeycrisp apples and a Vermont white Cheddar. Yum!
7. Lamb And Mint
(Image: Bon Appetit)
We personally love the taste of lamb, but there are those who complain that the flavor is a bit too gamy for them, and to those people, let us introduce you to mint! When you use it in conjunction with lamb—either raw or perhaps as a pesto—the mint’s bright, herbaceous flavor cuts through the rich earthiness of the meat, bringing both together into perfect harmony.
8. Strawberry And Rhubarb
(Image: Food Network)
By itself, the flavor of rhubarb is so strong and tangy that it almost never appears as a solitary ingredient. But once you weave in the pulpy sweetness of strawberry, like in a pie for example, you end up with a tart, tangy, delectable masterpiece.
Just like romantic matchups, food pairing are all about finding an ingredient that brings out the best in its partner, and these pairs do just that! But just like with real life romances, these pairing are all in the eye of the beholder.
Did we miss any of your favorite food matches? Let us know on Twitter at @plated.