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Jul 19, 2000 12:04 PM

Funky Food Combinations

  • t

As I sat munching on a new found snack craving (peanut butter & fresh tomato on toasted bread, bagel or pita)-I thought about all the fun food inventions that I have learned from family & friends throughout my life and they have all been good!)

Non-chowhounds would defintely sneer or turn up their noses at some of them. I could never for the life of me understand why they would not at least try them!
I was fortunate to have been raised with the theory - don't knock it until you've tried it!

My Mom regularly made me peanut butter & sweet pickle sandwiches when I was a young girl. My friends all thought it was bizarre. I also took to my Dad's very favorite combo - cream cheese, sliced radishes, yellow mustard, salt n pepper sandwiches. yum. I remember him making them as a snack & me standing next to hime with my mouth open ready for a bite. Still make them today!

Another interesting combo belonged to my friends younger brother - his fave was peanut butter, cheese & ketchup...okay I admit, I thought it was odd, but I really loved all those ingredients and decided I would join him. I became his best buddy, cuz I was the ONLY person that would even consider his sandwich as worthy!

So fellow chowhounds, I am intrigued (and also would loved to try some new found funky food combo's of yours) Do tell!!!

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  1. When I was young I hated mushrooms; this until college when I discovered they made a great combination with peanut butter! That paved the way, happily, for me to learn to love mushrooms on their own. I don't really eat them with peanut butter too often anymore... I think peanut butter will show up frequently in most people's lists of funky food combinations.

    2 Replies
    1. re: Jeremy Osner

      I think you are right Jeremy - already seeing a commonality with the PB funk - Glad you discovered the beauty of the shroom with or without peanut butter!

      1. re: Jeremy Osner

        Hmmm...I recall peanut butter and mushrooms being a sort of popular combo when I was in college, but for a different reason: PB was the medium of choice for making dried shrooms (the kind containing psilocybin) go down.

      2. In keeping with the peanut butter theme, I used to love falafel with peanut butter, fried egg whites, pickles, and hot bbq sauce. As with most odd food fetishes, the ordering and separation of ingredients was key...peanut butter on one side of the pita, the correct layering and distribution of egg whites and pickles on the other, bbq sauce not coming in direct contact with pb, etc. I actually don't think the above combo is that strange - it's really made up of several classic falafel components. But the grossed-out reactions I would get made me reconsider its normalcy, I guess.

        29 Replies
        1. re: Lauren

          my mom and her sisters and mother (all midwestern) love peanut butter combined with onion, tomato and onion, or tomato and cucumber sandwiches. It has mayo on it too, I think. Homemade bread and veg from the garden of course. the PB strikes me as a cheap substitute for cheese, bacon or such. Id gladly eat the sandwich with cheese or bacon but the PB combos have always repelled me.

          Another thing I remember is my grandmother (now 110) and my grandfather on the other side of the family eating melon with salt and pepper. Also salt on grapefruit. Do people still do this somewhere?

          1. re: jen kalb

            I have witnessed lots of people salting (not peppering)cantalope & watermelon over the years. I am a purist, however, when it comes to the melon family.

            I guess it might be a midwestern thing with the peanut butter & the veggies...think I may just have to try it out!

            1. re: jen kalb

              Yep, I salt watermelon and cantalope, if they're very ripe and sweet. Salt just seems to magnify and point up the already wonderful flavor. Conversely, if it's a mediocre fruit, I don't bother with salt. Also salt my grapefruit. I remember an aunt who put sugar on ripe tomatoes. She said it cut the acidity. p.

              1. re: pat hammond

                One treat that's hard to come by up here is green mango with salt. In Nicaragua (and some parts of Queens), vendors slice the tart unripe mango off the pit and sell the salted slices in plastic bags. Yum.

                Another nice salt/fruit combo: Thai lemon or limeade, usually made with salt and sugar.

                These are all really great in hot weather.

                1. re: MU

                  Speaking of salty sweets: when I worked at Amy's Bread (about 7 years ago), a woman named Suzie who was working there made the best brownies I've ever had. (I think Jim would not have liked them though; they were the candybar style of brownies, not the Duncan Hines style.) I was eating a brownie one night when by some accident I spilled a few grains of kosher salt on it. What an amazing flavor it had! I always put a little salt on brownies since then; at the time I tried getting Amy or Suzie to put a little salt in the brownie recipe, but as I recall Amy thought it would be too unfamiliar to her customers' palates.

                  1. re: Jeremy

                    As far as I know, nearly all the baked dessert recipes I've come across call for at least a pinch of salt -- to actually bring out the sweetness. I would be very surprised to hear that Amy (1) didn't know that and (2) wasn't already using a touch of salt in her mix. But then, I've been known to be wrong before...

                    1. re: Dena

                      It's been a long time -- I'm sure there was a pinch of salt in the recipe and I was trying to convince her to increase it. The thing about the brownies after I put a little bit of salt on them was that they had a very slight salty flavor on top of the sweetness, rather than just salt bringing out sweetness. I don't know if it would even be possible to get this effect with salt in the recipe, or if the salt would have to be added after cooking.

                      1. re: Jeremy

                        Your posting on lightly salted brownies made me think about the lovely combo of chocolate and salt, which led me to think about one of the best slightly odd food combinations of all time: french fries dipped in a chocolate shake...Mmm.

                        1. re: Lauren

                          When I was a student in Austria, I used to like to have a snack of Lindt dark chocolate and hungarian salami -- alternating small bites of each. It was a yin yang yo-yo taste experience.

                          1. re: Val G

                            How could I forget? another of Mom's faves which became mine too was peanut butter and bacon on toast.

                            The sweet & salt combo at work again, and the ever popular peanut butter.

                            which, btw, is always always the chunky version for me

                        2. re: Jeremy

                          A restaurateur I knew had fabulous chocolate sundaes, rather ascetic ones. One fat scoop of vanilla, unadorned, and what seemed to taste like commercial, not particularly great syrup. It tasted wonderful.

                          I asked him why. His secret ingredient? Salt.

                          1. re: Dave Feldman

                            reminds me of my dad's fave, think it is called tin roof, a hot fudge sundae with salted peanuts on top.

                            1. re: jen kalb

                              hey jen, how's it going? hope you guys are still going out for good meals in new york.

                              personally, i've always loved the sweet and salty combo. whenever i have brownies or cookies or similar sweets, i always alternate bites with potato chips. and then a nice glass of milk to wash it all down.

                              speaking of other funky combos, i've always loved cold cut sandwiches with kimchi on the side. can't explain it really - maybe it's just the mild flavor of a sandwich that requires a little kick to make the meal more exciting. much better than cole slaw. talk to you later.


                            2. re: Dave Feldman

                              Pretzels and ice cream is another good salty/sweet combo.

                    2. re: pat hammond

                      Hi Pat,

                      Inspired by your post, I put a little salt on my slice of watermelon last night -- a very pleasing combination of flavors! It takes very little salt to point up the sweetness of the melon.


                      1. re: Jeremy

                        Told you! Kosher salt is better than plain old table salt, and Fleur de sel, even better. p.

                        1. re: pat hammond

                          Funny you should mention that... Fleur de sel is what I was using.

                          1. re: Jeremy

                            I don't consider salting melon to be particularly funky, but it is delicious. Other salty foods go well with melon. The classic is prosciutto of course. But for a milchige variation, try some sliced feta cheese on top of ripe and juicy honeydew. Other melons are good this way too, but honeydew is my favority. first had this in a diner in Asbury Park.

                            For another variation, make a salad of seeded watermelon, feta cheese, some shredded fresh spearmint or basil (I prefer the mint) and a bit of olive oil and lemon juice. It is both beautiful and delicious.

                            1. re: Alan Divack

                              Salting fruit is a great way to bring out its flavor (though I would not recommend it for all). I found this out when I was growing up in Hawaii -- my aunties and uncles always salted their fresh pineapple slices. And now I always do the same.

                      2. re: pat hammond

                        My Dad used to keep a special shaker of 3 to 1/Salt/Sugar for summer tomatoes. I also have a Chinese friend who sugars tomatoes and lets them sit before adding them to pepper beef. It really brings out the flavor.

                      3. re: jen kalb

                        Here's a couple I like on both themes:

                        Peanut butter, hot pepper jelly, and bacon sandwiches. toasted wheat bread. Not really that weird. delicious.

                        Melon and sweet cherry tomato salad with salt, lime, and cayenne, hot paprika, or piment d'Espelette (my latest favorite chili powder thing). Also good with a little honey in the lime juice. This is not so weird when you think about Mexican street food and the salty, sweet, spicy combinations.

                        My dad used to salt cantelope and grapefruit. I don't do it all the time, but only when the mood strikes me.

                        1. re: Vanessa

                          I haven't had these in a long while, but my mom used to make (as a party appetizer): Prunes stuffed with cream cheese, soaked in brandy, wrapped in bacon and broiled.
                          Everyone liked them.

                          Also, a Filipino friend says that one of the many variations of a drink called Hallo Hallo (which she says means Mix Mix) contains creamed corn, evaporated milk, crushed ice, and sugar. Never tried it, myself.

                          1. re: Vanessa

                            At a farmer's market in Santa Monica today we saw a vendor (hispanic) selling mangos. He'd quickly peel the fruit, make deep cuts in it & season it with lime juice, salt & - if requested - chili pepper. He'd then either put it on a stick, to eat right away, or in a plastic bag, to take home. Didn't try it yet, but it looked great (well, maybe without the chili pepper).

                            1. re: pam

                              raw/just-about-to-ripen mango (called 'kairi'), cut into rectangular pieces and sprinkled with sea salt and red chili powder is a very popular street item in bombay. kairi is also whats used in the ubiquitous indian mango pickle.

                              out of curiousity: were the mangoes fully ripe in the santa monica market?

                              1. re: howler

                                Without having eaten them, how would I know if they were fully ripe? The peeled fruit looked ripe - orangey yellow in color. Have you eaten it this way, with the chili powder? Is it good? I thought it might have the same sort of taste as a fruity-peppery salsa.

                                Guess you're not seeing any mangoes served like this in London, howler...

                          2. re: jen kalb

                            Re: Salt on melon.

                            Yes. In the Carrara region of Tuscany, it is traditional to eat water melon like salad, with salt, pepper, oil, and vinegar. Some others laugh at the Carraresi for this, but they stick to their guns. (I certainly wouldn't eat watermelon that way, by the way.)

                            1. re: Michael

                              One of my favorite salads consists of the inner leaves of a head of romaine, thinly sliced red onion, a little crumbled feta cheese and hunks of seeded, very ripe watermelon, s & p and a drizzle of olive oil with a little white wine vinegar. Sounds peculiar, I know, but it's truly wonderful. p.

                            2. re: jen kalb

                              Hi Jen: I posted previously about salt on grapefruit and watermelon. It really brings out the flavor. How wonderful that your genes are endowed with such longevity! p.

                            3. re: Lauren

                              Thanks for sharing the falafel fetish - and normalcy is all in our own tastebuds - I think it sounds yum!!

                            4. b
                              Bill Pisarra, Jr.

                              I like to lightly toast some bread, butter it, put on slices of a nice cheddar, top with thinly sliced tomatoes, then broil until the cheese melts and browns a wee bit. Then - liberal shots of worcestershire on top.

                              Works great on an English too.

                              This is the type of food I like to eat standing over the kitchen sink, not just cuz it oozes and drips, but
                              there's just something about noshing over the sink.

                              1. My standard late-night tv snack:

                                Freshly popped popcorn (preferably in olive oil...can't stand the air-popped stuff) dusted with finely ground "brewer's" yeast (more likely sold as nutritional yeast...the yellow stuff), sprinkled with sweetened soy sauce (dissolve 2-3 tblsp sugar in 1/2 cup water, mix with 1/2 cup regular soy...keep in refrigerator), and spiked with Louisiana-style hot sauce (like fav' is the cheap Crystal brand).


                                3 Replies
                                1. re: Jim Dixon

                                  ooooo - a sign of a true hound - havent played with
                                  brewers yeast for a long DID you come up with this very interesting (and somewhat precise)late night snack-a-roo??

                                  1. re: Tammy

                                    my wife's craving (bordering on addiction) for popcorn got it started....

                                    a sprinkle of brewer's yeast, with its vaguely parmesan-esque flavor, goes back to those halcyon hippy days of the '70s when we sprinkled it on almost everything (the small liberal arts college I eventually dropped out of even offered brewer's yeast at its "alternative" salad bar...and one of our kids grew up thinking it was "brewer's cheese")....there's even a movie theater here in Portland, the last independent screen in town, that has a shaker of the stuff at the snack bar...

                                    the sweetened soy evolved from various iterations of kitjap, the thick, sweet soy condiment from Indonesia...I used to buy it at a Chinese grocery, but when faced with an empty bottle late one night, I improvised my own and eventually settled on the version in my earlier post..the salty-sweet flavor is good on a lot of other foods, too...

                                    a fan of capsacin (C18H27O3N, aka the hot stuff in chiles) from an early age, I tried a number of things to give the popcorn some of that delectable heat...spicy salt blends were a big deal at our house for awhile, but at some point I tried Tabasco and was hooked by its spicy-vinegary flavor combined with all of the other stuff on the's really amazing just how much you can put on without getting an extreme chile do have to be careful not to get the popcorn too soggy, but I like the gummy paste that forms from the yeast-soy-hot sauce blend (but Judith doesn't...she sticks with yeast and just a light sprinkle of soy).

                                    there is a digestive downside to excessive popcorn consumption, so we've learned to practice more than 2-3X/week...


                                    1. re: Jim Dixon

                                      Wow - y'all are definitely popcorn connoisseurs to the umpth degree. Great tinkering & combinations. Loved the hippy references on the brewer's yeast & how that has evolved throughout your family! A happy, munching family of hounds - I love it! Thanks for the specifics!

                                2. Well, I must have grown up on a different PLANET, because very little of what everyone is listing here strikes me as being the least bit odd. Cheese and tomato melted on toast???? Peanut butter and pickles???? Salted fruit???? Satay veggies????

                                  How about: I regularly put peanut butter in my COFFEE. Raspberry jam on steak. And chocolate on tuna fish.

                                  I'm not even going to MENTION what I dip SUSHI in, for fear that several of you will become violently ill.

                                  One combo that I've sold lots of [mainstream] people on (though I wouldn't call it particularly odd myself) is ham and tuna sandwiches. The wetness of the tuna against the saltiness of the ham. Mmmmgood!! I leave some of the water/oil from the tuna can, and skip the mayo, but I think they've usually used mayo when they made it themselves (once I've hooked them).

                                  This works both with and without cheese. It does NOT, however, work with Rocky Road ice cream. Trust me.

                                  I also tried hummos & ham, and hummos & tuna, but I can't quite get those to work. Needed a good peanut latte to get rid of the taste! But I still hold out hope -- they SOUND like logical combinations; maybe I just need to tweak the ratios.

                                  By the way, many years ago my wife and I got in the habit of putting Grape Nuts into peanut butter and jelly sandwiches during a particularly nasty year when we were trapped in a small midwestern town selling only *CREAMY* peanut butter!!! To this day, I still drop a corn flake or two into a jar of Superchunk out of habit.

                                  2 Replies
                                  1. re: Jim Wong

                                    Ok Jim, I think I may have to deem you King Funk!

                                    Loved all your concoctions - especially making smooth (ick) p.b. into chunky with grape nuts. I make use of those nuggets alot myself.

                                    But come on, spill it, ya gotta tell us what you dip your Sushi into...!!!!

                                    1. re: Jim Wong

                                      O.K. I'll bite. What do you dip your sushi in? Sounds euphimistic.