Friday, January 30, 2009

A reflection on umami and garbage bowls

You might remember that I was nervous about enjoying the leftovers of my butter bean, butternut squash, and sausage pasta.  Well, never fear... the umami gods were looking out for me.  I made more grilled romaine hearts to have with the pasta, and drizzled soy sauce on the lettuce.  Some of the soy sauce happened to make its way over to my pasta, and the result was amazing.  It wasn't the addition of the soy sauce taste, per se, but the fact that it heightened the other flavors.  I immediately knew that I was experiencing the wonders of umami!

You hear a lot about umami (the 5th taste).  Supposedly meat, parmesan cheese, mushrooms, soy sauce, red wine, and a variety of other foods activate taste buds with umami receptors and enhance other flavors.  I had never experienced it before and honestly thought it was one of those things that gets tossed around by chefs and foodies to make themselves feel important.  And I was wrong.  Sometimes it feels (or in this case, tastes) so good to be wrong.

On a completely different note, I have embraced one of Rachel Ray's tenets.  The woman drives me crazy... it's just not normal for someone to be that excited about everything.  Calm down, woman!  But, I still watch 30 Minute Meals from time to time because I think she makes some good food.  Anyway, I've realized that she's on to something with her garbage bowl (or "GB," because there's not enough time to make a meal and say everything in just 30 min).  She keeps a big bowl by her cutting board and puts all of her random garbage in it - everything from veggie stems and peels to empty containers.  I was tired of leaving a trail of onion skin from my counter to the garbage can, so I gave it a shot.  I highly recommend this simple practice.  My floor stays a lot cleaner (although I still managed to spill oats all over it the other day), and it only takes a few seconds to wash the bowl out at the end of the night.  Rachel, you win this time.

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