Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Umami – Is MSG a Taste?

When I was in school, I was taught there were only four tastes your tongue could pick up: Sweet, Salty, Sour, and Bitter. Recently, however, a fifth taste has been discovered: Umami, commonly added to food in the form of MSG (monosodium glutamate).

I say discovered, but that's really a misnomer. All that really means is that Western scientists have confirmed a fifth taste receptor on the tongue that detects glutimate. The Japanese have known about it for years. The Chinese may have known about it, too, considering they seem to  have started the whole MSG in food craze.

A taste is a sensation created by receptors on the tongue.  The flavor of food is a combination of its taste, smell, texture, temperature, and perhaps a few other chemicals.

While there is no direct English translation of the word umami, it's often described as "meaty", "savory" or "broth-like". Traditionally, MSG has been considered a taste enhancer; it was thought to make the tongue more receptive to other tastes. Although the Japanese have considered umami a taste for a long time, only recently have taste receptors on the tongue been identified, which allowed umami to be officially classified as the fifth taste.

Glutamate gives some vegetables a "meaty" taste. For example, umami is the "meaty" or "savory" taste found in sauteed mushrooms, fermented foods and sauces such as soy sauce, and even fresh tomatoes. The umami taste is also high in cheese, shellfish, stocks, broths and even chocolate.

Most prominently associated with glutamate, ribonucleic acids can also impart an umami taste. Glutamate and ribonucleic acid may complement each other, creating an enhanced umami taste.

Glutamate is an amino acid. In its free form, called a salt of glutamic acid - monosodium glutamate or simply sodium glutamate - it imparts the umami taste to food. Glutamate is also an amino acid that makes up regular proteins, but when glutamate is bound in a protein, it doesn't really impart the umami taste.

Adding a pinch of MSG to your seasoning mix or or directly when cooking foods may generate a more "meaty" or "savory" flavor. Another option is to use foods naturally high in glutamate. This may be secret behind the use of stocks, broths and tomatoes in imparting a rich, savory flavor to dishes.

This is all well and good, but isn't MSG dangerous to our health? I've always thought so. The more research I do, though, the weirder it gets. Stay tuned …

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

French Peanut Butter Sandwich

Ah, food of French Provence! Well, sort of. The next internationally inspired peanut butter sandwich combines French cheese and herbs with creamy peanut butter for a bright sandwich with peanuty undertones. Maybe we should call it pain avec le beurre d'arachide et le fromage de chèvre.

There's a bit of prep involved with this peanut butter sandwich variation. Start with about two tablespoons of chèvre (goat) cheese. Mix in about 1/ 4 teaspoon dried basil. Next, peel, seed, and thinly slice 1 cucumber. You'll only need about half of it. Get out the creamy peanut butter and a couple of slices of good French bread.

With this prepped, spread a layer of peanut butter on the bread, then a layer of the goat cheese mixture. Top with slices of cucumber, and then sprinkle a bit of salt and pepper over the top.

You can serve this as an open face sandwich, as I have, or closed, with peanut butter and cheese on both sides. You'll probably only want one layer of cucumber in this case, though.

You can use cream cheese instead of the chèvre, but the flavor won't be as interesting.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Get Free Food Storage Just for Watching

I found an interesting food storage company the other day: eFoods Global. They're a new food reserve company located here in Utah. This isn't ordinary food storage or military-style MRE food. They have a unique approach I've not seen from other food storage companies. Their mantra is: Serve, Save, Share. You can serve it tonight for dinner, save it for future need, and share it with others to help them get prepared.

eFoods is currently offering 6 FREE meals to anyone who will take their Food Freedom Tour. The tour is a series of 5 short videos illustrating why being prepared with food storage is important, and why eFoods is a good choice. The 6 meals are free, although customers are asked to pay $9.95 for shipping. Their goal is to get new customers to try their food. With the growing need for us all to build a quality food storage solution, I wanted to let you know about them and, hey, who doesn't like free food?

You can take the Food Freedom Tour and claim their free food packs here.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Korean Peanut Butter Sandwich

International Peanut Butter Sandwich Month has been extended, in case you didn't guess. This time, we're heading to the Korean peninsula and asking, “What would a Korean peanut butter sandwich be like?”

Take a heaping tablespoon of peanut butter and mix it with a tablespoon of soy sauce. This will be enough spread for two sandwiches.

Toast four bread slices (I used white bread this time), and spread the peanut butter mixture on each slice, one side only please. Alternately, you could use puffed rice cakes instead of bread.

Now, don't let this next part freak you out. Put a layer of kimchi (Korean pickled cabbage) on one slice for each sandwich and then sprinkle on a bit of green sliced green onion on, as well. Put the slices together like a normal sandwich and cut in two pieces, if desired.

This peanut butter sandwich variation is tastier than your brain thinks it is.