Food science nerd alert – I’m talking about umami again. You know, our fifth taste receptor, the newfound “delicious essense” those Japanese waxed so poetically about in the 20th century. It’s all about the high concentrations of glutamates and nucleotides found in certain foods and how combing these foods creates a meaty, savory crave factor that is just really hard to describe in words. In fact, research has shown that pairing up glutamate and nucleotide rich ingredients magnifies their joint umami effect up to 8 times as much. I’ve found that using a few umami-rich ingredients in healthier recipes is an easy way to create an amazing and indulgent-seeming eating experience.
There was so much umami going on at the beef-centric Live Fire event I attended this week at with friends from BeefLovingTexans.com), I wish I could have taken all of you to this meat extravaganza at the famous Salt Lick in the Texas Hill Country. Did what I had to do as a food blogger and made all the rounds to taste meaty, marvelous dishes from chefs from all over Texas. It’s amazing how versatile beef is – not only are there a zillion cuts to choose from (I even tried tongue), beef can be served up to conjure up a fond memories. Over the night, I felt like I had been at grandma’s house getting a hug from comfort food ( with the pimento cheese grits with burnt ends brisket) to being on an exotic vacation (with the Thai NY strip satay with green mango salad).
Find out more about umami from this past blog post, no need to rehash it all here. I’ve also curated a handy collection of essential umami pantry staples for Mode.com, check that out too! Some of the first foods people mention when asked about umami are steaks, mushrooms, red wine, fermented sauces and aged cheeses. It’s true, all these are delicious pairing. However, did you know that as far as vegetables go, mushrooms don’t have a monopoly on umami. Lot of other veggies are high in umami, including sea vegetables (like kelp), mushrooms, corn, peas, tomatoes, potatoes, peppers, winter squash, green beans, asparagus, Brussels sprouts, Swiss chard and kale.
Check out my vegetable-packed recipe for East-West Shishito Pepper, Mushroom and Corn Saute. Almost all the ingredient are umami-rich and it tastes super “meaty” just on it’s own – but I’ve used as a topping for brisket tacos and steak, and it was pure heaven.