Friday, April 23, 2010
Did you know about umami? Umami is the “fifth” taste. Not too long ago umami broke into the taste game, a game that was once solely dominated by the Big Four: sweet, salty, sour and bitter. Umami came into the market late in the game but gained favor with food lovers because it’s so sensational. It’s like the Fox network of tastes. Except not evil. Actually, forget that I mentioned Fox; I don’t want you to think umami’s some trashy late comer who may or may not be bringing down the fabric of our country.
Umami is described alternately as “brothy” or “meaty” (I’m not sure how I feel about that second one) and is also identified as “savoriness.” At this point I would like to thank Wikipedia for the vocabulary words (except “meaty” I’d like you to take that one back). But anyways, if you’re a savory-leaning eater like me, you dig on some umami. Think parmesan cheese, mushrooms or soy sauce. Deep and salty, but earthy as well. Umami. I just like the word. It sounds like Puerto Rican slang for “girlfriend” or Japanese for “wicked.”
So I had some mushrooms that I bought because they were on sale and I had a vegetarian buddy coming over for dinner. I bought them thinking meatless main course; however, when I double checked with her on whether or not she liked mushrooms she said she “liked their flavor, but sometimes the texture sicked her out.” So I reevaluated my dinner plan and decided not to make mushrooms the centerpiece of our dining experience that night. Instead I utilized them in an appetizer. And I cuisinart-ed them into a tapenade to bypass the textural issues. I bet I’ll be good at tricking my future children into eating things. Not to compare my friend to a child. I fully get textual issues (I’m talking to you bananas). Great success! She loved it, I loved it, and I just added a mushroom appetizer to my repertoire that is like 5 times easier to prepare and 10 times less fattening for you than stuffed mushrooms. Win, win, win.
PORTOBELLA MUSHROOM TAPENADE
2 packages baby portabellas
2 shallots, thinly sliced
3 cloves garlic, minced
3 tbs. olive oil
2 tbs. butter
¼- ½ (ish) cup soy sauce (maybe a little more)
¼ (ish) cup Marsala wine
1 tsp. Dijon mustard
2 scallions, chopped
Heat butter and olive oil in a large skillet over medium to medium-high heat. Add shallots and sauté for a few minutes, add garlic. While the shallots are working clean and chop your mushrooms. Mine were already cut up, so I took the opportunity to pour myself a generous glass of wine. Add the mushrooms and toss to coat with the butter and oil (feel free to drizzle a bit more oil on if the pan is a little dry). Let the mushrooms work for a few minutes, until they begin to purge a bit of their liquid. Shake in some soy sauce and Marsala. I must admit, I was like “playing kitchen” when I made up this recipe and was tossing things in willy nilly. I just shook some soy in, then some Marsala, then a little more soy. Then I was like “hmmmm, scallions feel right here.” So I chopped up two and added them. Then the Dijon mustard caught my eye and I was like “get over here, sir. I’d like to utilize you” and tossed a wee bit of him in too. The measurements listed above are complete “guestimates” (gross! I hate that word) be wary of too much soy (too salty) or too much Marsala (too sweet). I would suggest starting with a couple good shakes of both, but with one extra shake of soy to Marsala. God, does this make any sense? Whatever I did it was good. Just come over my house and I’ll show you. I might even share my wine if you’re nice.
Once this concoction was together, I let it cook down for about ten minutes, so that the flavors could really meld. Then I turned off the heat and let it cool for a few before dumping the whole lot of it into the food processor and pulsing it until it was chopped up fairly finely, but still had a bit of texture. You don’t want to create soup, see? The end result is not that pretty to look at (think brown chunky paste) but whoo whee! Does it taste good! It’s delicious! I would spread this on a veggie wrap, crackers, with pita and hummus; eat it straight out of the container with a spoon, etc. The ideal way to serve it up is too make small crostini, or toast, if you don’t have a baguette handy. I did not, so I took some whole grain sandwich bread, toasted it and cut it into long strips (triangles would also work well here, but I was in a rectangular mood for some reason or another). On the toast strips spread a thin layer of goat cheese topped with a slathering of the mushroom tapenade. So good!