Ruby

Editor at Kitchen Stories

We’ve all heard the saying opposites attract, and in fact, it applies just as well to life in the kitchen. Though it might seem counter-intuitive, the principle all leads to that hallmarked complement of a ‘well rounded dish’. What that really means is the key sweet, bitter, sour, salty, and umami tastes are used to complement each other or counteract a stronger flavor—maybe it’s a little salt to level out bitter grilled eggplants or a hint of lemon to cuts through a creamy risotto.

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Learning how to fine tune flavors by dialing them up or balancing them out is one of the key skills of any great cook. Here’s a well-timed crash course to get you ready for the summer!

New sweet and sour recipes for spring

One of our most-loved flavor pairings is sweet and sour—whether you’re tucking into a bowl of literal ‘sweet and sour chicken’ or slurping lemon gelato, there is something undeniably satisfying about tempering mouth-puckering sourness with something sweet. Using one of our favorite sweeting ingredients—honey—as a starting point, here are some fresh, well-rounded dishes that will carry you from spring to summer, from ideas for energizing breakfasts to social outdoor eating.

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1. A fresh start to the day

Don’t cast off smoothie bowls as just another trend—the contrast of the smoothie texture with the crunchy, bright toppings, that make the dish a feast for the eyes as well. For a bright start to the day, the smoothie base is made with refreshing cantaloupe, sweet mango, sour kiwi, a light honey, and creamy coconut milk. The combination of the sweet fruits and honey with the sour notes from the kiwi keeps the dish light and not overly sweet. On top is a quick, honey-roasted coconut flake and cashew granola (we suggested making double the quantity so you can jar the extra and use it next time), more kiwi, and a hint of mint.

Honey-melon smoothie bowl with coconut granola

Honey-melon smoothie bowl with coconut granola

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2. Make the most of spring produce

It’s a great time of year to experiment with sweet and sour as two much loved ingredients spring up from the earth—asparagus and rhubarb.

Green asparagus has a naturally savory, or umami, flavor, making it a great base for sweet and sour notes to sink into. Since warmer weather means we’re all looking for a bit of ease in the kitchen, this recipe is all prep, no ‘cook.’ Make a dressing with zingy lemon juice and its zest, a fruity-to-floral honey, finely grated, salty Parmesan, and olive oil. Shave the asparagus into long strips, toss with the dressing and garnish with strips of grated parmesan and fresh thyme. Here’s an elegant dish with real bite to it.

Shaved asparagus salad with honey vinaigrette

Shaved asparagus salad with honey vinaigrette

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No one can deny that rhubarb is an eye-catcher, but its sour top note tends to divide people. I’m fully ‘for’ rhubarb, but if you’re not, here’s a great gateway recipe: a no-churn soft-serve-style ice cream made with rhubarb, strawberries, and a crunchy almond Florentine. The sourness of the rhubarb is brought down by the cream and sweetened condensed milk in the ice-cream base and the puree made with sweet strawberries and fruity honey. To make the dish really pop—to your eyes and your taste buds—we marbled some of the puree on the top layer of the ice cream. Don’t let that fool you into thinking it’s a complicated dish—it’s a great ice cream recipe for beginners to start with.

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No-churn honey rhubarb ice cream

No-churn honey rhubarb ice cream

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3. Light up the grill—and your proteins

Savory dishes carrying sweet and sour flavors need a good dose of umami–both of which can be found in crowd-pleasers like salmon and steak. If you’re looking for a fresh, no fuss, one-dish main, try this oven-baked pulled salmon with honey, citrus, fennel, tarragon, and parsley. Wrapped up in a parchment paper parcel in a baking dish, the salmon almost poaches in a light sauce made of floral honey, olive oil, and lemon juice and the sliced oranges, blood orange, and fresh herbs steam and infuse it with more flavor. All this happens in the oven, so all you need to do is wait for the right moment, unwrap the salmon, pull it, and serve!

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Honey pulled salmon with oranges and fennel

Honey pulled salmon with oranges and fennel

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Lighten up that most hearty of proteins—steak—with a little help from honey, this time a darker, more woody variant to complement the charred notes of the seared rib eye. Vibrant lemon juice and lemon slices cut through the protein and the rich butter and honey-based pan sauce and a red chili adds a spicy counterpoint. Trust me on this one, you’ll want to save every drop of that liquid gold sauce to spoon over your steak. Enjoy!

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Rib-eye steak with honey-chili glaze

Rib-eye steak with honey-chili glaze

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Are you a fan of sweet and sour dishes? Tell us what you’re most looking forward to cooking this summer in the comments!

More delicious ideas for you