Tag Archives: Umami

Mushrooms: Nature’s Flavor Enhancer


Monosodium glutamate, also known as sodium glutamate and MSG, is a sodium salt of glutamic acid, a naturally occurring non-essential amino acid. It is used as a food additive and is commonly marketed as a flavor enhancer.

For decades, concerns have been raised on anecdotal grounds, and hypotheses have been put forward, that MSG may be associated with migraine headaches, food allergies in children, obesity, and hyperactivity in children.

Subsequent research by dozens of health centers and universities around the world, however, have found that, while large doses of MSG given without food may elicit more symptoms than a placebo in individuals who believe that they react adversely to MSG, the frequency of the responses was low and the responses reported were inconsistent, not reproducible, and not observed when MSG was given with food.

In the 2004 version of his book On Food and Cooking, food enthusiast and author Harold McGee states that “[after many studies], toxicologists have concluded that MSG is a harmless ingredient for most people, even in large amounts.

Still, the reports suggest that less than 1% of the population, sensitive individuals may experience “transient” side effects such as “headache, numbness/tingling, flushing, muscle tightness, and generalised weakness” to a large amount of MSG taken in a single meal.

So, if you’re trying, for whatever reason, to avoid MSG…did you know that the same flavor enhancing proteins, called glutamates, in MSG are found naturally in mushrooms?

Natural glutamate is also found in Parmesan cheese, soy sauce, anchovies, and tomato juice.

Next time you want to add a little “umami” to your dish, dice a pound of mushrooms, and saute over low heat (covered) with a little salt until the mushrooms release their liquid, then strain through cheesecloth or a fine seive…and add the broth to your dish for a natural flavor enhancer!

Anchovie fillets, finely diced are often added to pasta sauces to add depth of flavor.

Much like mushroom broth, a  small about of diced anchovies will boost the flavor profile of a dish, without being noticeable as its own distinct flavor.

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First Iron Foodie Contest – My Recipe


Okay peeps,

Here’s my official entry recipe for Foodie Blogroll & Marx Foods’ “First Iron Foodie Contest.”

After being accepted, and receiving my ingredients, my instructions were as follows:

Post your Marx Foods ingredients signature dish on your blog by December 3, 2010.

Contestants will have until December 3, 2010 to create, photograph and post their recipes on their blogs. We will then set up a poll for FBR members to vote for their favorite! Include the Iron Foodie badge in your post.

They should tell us why they picked the ingredients that they did to work into a signature recipe, and why that recipe really speaks to their cooking style and philosophy.

Here we go…


A modern potlatch ceremony

Native tribes here in the Pacific Northwest believed that salmon were a gift from the benevolent salmon king. In honor of the gift, Indians treated the annual arrival of the salmon, in the spring, with great reverence and, often, with a ceremony known as the potlatch. At potlatch gatherings, a family or hereditary leader would host guests in their family’s house and hold a feast for those guests.

A good host was expected to provide more food than his guests could possibly eat.

One of the centerpieces of the potlatch was, of course, the salmon, roasted with local herbs and ingredients. Cranberries, pine nuts, sea salt, wild rice, seaweed, maple sugar, mushrooms are all ingredients that were used by the Chinook Indian tribes.  Salmon, of course, was a primary food source.

In fact, the Chinook species is named for the Tsinuk tribe of the Columbia River region.

Given the history and unparalleled quality of our local salmon, my fondness for hosting feasts (as well as cooking too much food), and my own aboriginal heredity, it was easy to pick the entrée, and with my secret ingredients including Marx Food’s Aji Panca Chile, Porcini Mushrooms, Dulse Seaweed, Smoked Sea Salt, and Maple Sugar, a Northwest dry rub came quickly to mind, giving me a chance to prepare my dish using my favorite cooking method, live-fire grilling.

Risotto, my accompanying recipe,  is an ancient class of Italian dishes, originating are in northern Italy, of rice cooked in broth to a creamy consistency. Italian is another major branch in my family tree.

A word about umami - it’s usually said that the human tongue can detect only four basic tastes: sweet, sour, bitter and salty, and that all tastes are combinations of these. In recent years, some have added a fifth taste to the other four: Umami. Both the word and the concept are of ancient Japanese origin.  Umami is hard to translate, but words such as savory, essence, pungent, deliciousness, earthy, and ironically…indescribable are sometimes used.

It’s often associated with a feeling of perfect quality in a taste, and with foods such meats, cheeses, and mushrooms.

I believe in the importance of cooking with local, sustainable ingredients. I also believe that localized recipes, created and perfected over centuries by the indigenous people of an area, are almost impossible to improve on. The additional of an occasional sprinkling of foreign spice, or a touch of unusual herbs might bring out an interesting, even exciting underlying flavor, but no ingredients marry so well as those that have drank the same water, breathed the same air, and shared the same soil for eons.

Two cultures that epitomize this concept are Italian, and Native American. So, with a fusion of these ancient civilizations and culinary heritages, I give you Potlatch Salmon with Umami Risotto.

Enjoy,

-Perry

Potlatch Salmon

2 Tbs maple sugar
1 Tbs smoked sea salt
1 Tbs ground Tellicherry peppercorns, ground coarse.
1 tsp ground Aji Panca Chile, ground fine.
1 tsp granulated garlic
4 – 1/2-pound center-cut Chinook salmon steaks, skinned.

Combine the first 5 ingredients. Gently rub both sides of each salmon steak with spice mix, reserving 1/2 tsp per steak for later. Allow to rest 1 hour.

Prepare grill or turn on broiler. Arrange fish on grill or broiler pan.  Grill or broil (500f) 5 inches from heat source 4-5 minutes per side, or until fish is opaque throughout. Don’t over-cook.

On each of 4 plates arrange salmon on a bed of wild rice risotto. Sprinkle each steak with 1/2 tsp reserved rub.

Recommendations: Serve with a salad of fresh wild greens, wild rice, and an Oregon Pinot Noir or Pinot Grigio.

Umami Risotto

(Wild Rice and Porcini Mushroom Risotto)

2 oz. dried porcini mushrooms
1/2 sweet onion, peeled and finely chopped
1/4 cup cranberries, dried
1/4 cup pine nuts, toasted
1/2 cup celery, diced
2 T. dried dulse seaweed, finely diced
2 cups chicken broth
3/4 cup wild rice, rinsed and drained
1/4 cup butter

In a bowl, pour 1 cup boiling water over porcini mushrooms. Let stand until water is cool enough to touch, about 20 minutes. Squeeze mushrooms gently to release grit, then lift from water. Finely chop mushrooms. Carefully pour 3/4 C of the soaking liquid, through cheesecloth, into another container, leaving grit behind.

In a 2- to 3-quart pan, combine onions, dulse, and 3/4 cup of the mushroom soaking liquid. Stir often over high heat until onions begin to brown, 10 to 15 minutes. Add remaining soaking liquid, butter, mushrooms, broth, and wild rice.

Cover and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer until rice is tender to bite and beginning to split (about 1 hour.) After rice has cooked for 30 minutes, stir in celery and quickly re-cover. Cook remaining 30 minutes, and remove from heat. Stir in cranberries and pine nuts. Season dressing with salt to taste.

Yield: makes about 4 servings.

Iron Foodie 2010 | Here's Why that will be me:
MarxFoods.com -- Fine Bulk Foods The Foodie BlogRoll

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