pumpkin pie spice and coconut
You put the pumpkin pie spice in the coconut ... actually, the flavor combo is lush and warming. Courtesy Photo

Toss in a few spices, some bold flavors, a little salt and pepper - trends can taste delicious.

The flavor experts at McCormick have created their 10th anniversary Flavor Forecast that identifies top flavor pairings and trends in what Americans will be eating in 2010. Our palates, apparently, are ready for assertive flavors.

"The year in flavor will be heavily influenced by bitter, warm and earthy notes," said Kevan Vetter, executive chef at McCormick. "We see America's palates embracing stronger flavors - high-impact combinations that are anything but subtle."

McCormick consulted chefs, food bloggers and other sources to compile their pairings, such as roasted cumin and chickpeas.

One of the key trends, according to McCormick is "always in season," which is a nod to the rising popularity of farmers' markets around the nation, as well as a renewed interest in food preservation techniques like canning, pickling, freezing and drying, that can preserve produce at the height of its freshness.

"This means year-round flavor is always at the ready - quicker and more accessible than ever before," Vetter said.

Here are the 2010 top flavor pairings:

1. Roasted ginger and rhubarb: Layers of spicy and sour, with warming notes and a powerful tang.

2. Thai basil and watermelon: A colorful study in contrasts offers a sweet, refreshing balance.

3. Caraway and bitter greens: An unmistakable, licorice-flavored spice tames the bitter bite of greens.

4. Bay leaves and preserved lemon: Slowly coaxed flavor worth the wait, an aromatic mix of bitter, salty-tart and bright.

5. Almond and ale: The bittersweet character of both ingredients makes a congenial, cozy and hearty match.

6. Turmeric and vine-ripened tomatoes: Earthy and naturally sweet, this healthful blend is always in season.

7. Pumpkin pie spice and coconut milk: This lush, warm pairing reconnects with its tropical roots.

8. Roasted cumin and chickpeas: The Mediterranean duet delivers warm, earthy flavor harmonies.

9. Creole mustard and shellfish: A vibrant pair that brings Gulf Coast gusto to any part of the country.

10. Chives and fish sauce: Savory fusion of French and Asian cuisines.

Caribbean Chicken with Mango Coconut Sauce

This dish is layered with sweet and savory flavors, thanks to the tropical trio of pumpkin pie spice, coconut milk and mangoes.

Prep time: 15 minutes

Cook time: 35 minutes

1/4 cup flour

1 tablespoon paprika

1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice, divided

1 teaspoon McCormick Gourmet Collection Sicilian Sea Salt

1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper

8 bone-in chicken thighs, skin removed (about 3 pounds)

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

1 cup thinly sliced red onion

1 can (14 1/2 ounces) petite diced tomatoes, undrained

1 can (14 ounces) coconut milk

2 cups frozen mango chunks, unthawed

Mix flour, paprika, 1 tablespoon of the pumpkin pie spice, sea salt and red pepper in shallow dish. Coat chicken evenly on both sides in flour mixture.

Heat oil in nonstick 5-quart saucepan or Dutch oven on medium-high heat. Add chicken; cook 3 minutes per side or until golden brown. Remove chicken. Drain excess fat from pan. Add red onion; cook and stir 2 minutes or until lightly browned. Stir in tomatoes, coconut milk, mango and remaining 1 teaspoon pumpkin spice. Bring to boil. Return chicken to pan. Cover.

Bake in preheated 350 F oven 20 to 25 minutes or until chicken is cooked through. Serve with cooked rice, if desired.

Makes 8 servings.

Nutrition information per serving: 357 calories, fat 21g, protein 25g, carbohydrates 17g, cholesterol 86mg, sodium 447mg, fiber 3g

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