Sunday, July 25, 2010

Really Simple Really Bold Ways to Boost Flavor

Myths about Flavor
• Old school thought was that we needed fat or salt to give flavor to foods.
• While these do add some taste notes, too much can be unhealthy in terms of extra calories, saturated fat, trans fats.
• Too much sodium is linked with hypertension or high blood pressure

In a recent survey, when people were asked what are the major factors they consider when choosing food: Taste reigned supreme at number one.
• Not surprising in these cost conscious times, price ranked second.
• Then health of the food and convenience rounded out the top four factors

What is Taste vs. Flavor?
• Traditionally we identify four tastes = sweet, sour, salty, bitter
• And now taste scientists and chefs recognize a fifth taste called umami. In English, it is sometimes described as "meaty" or "savory". In the Japanese, the term umami is used for this taste sensation, whose characters literally mean "delicious flavor."
• Umami doesn't have a pleasant taste alone, but makes the taste of foods more pleasant. High levels of free glutamate are found in dried seaweed, tomatoes, parmesan cheese, anchovies, fish sauce and mushrooms, as well as in meats.

Flavor is the works
• Taste + aroma + texture + mouthfeel + color all together equal flavor

So how can we achieve great flavor without adding unhealthy amounts of fat and salt?
There are five really simple, really bold ways to boost flavor
1. Layering umami
2. Adding aromatics
3. Using rubs
4. Drying it
5. Adding sauces
I have brought three mouthwatering dishes that illustrate these ways to add flavor without compromising your health.

Peppery Dijon Parsley Rub on Beef Filet
From Chef Dave Zino, National Cattlemen’s Beef Association
1. Umami. Beef and other meat contain an umami providing protein. Free glutamate, which results when glutamate is released during the breakdown of a protein molecule, occurs naturally in many foods.
2. Rub. Rubs boost flavor without adding fat. Apply 2 hours before grilling or up to two hours in advance.
3. Aromatics. Add aromatic vegetables and herbs which give off deep, well-rounded flavors and pleasing aromas when cooked such as onions, celery, carrots, garlic and parsley. This rub is made with two large cloves of garlic in addition to flavorful Dijon mustard, parsley
Grilled Tuna with California Golden Raisin Chutney
4. Drying it. Drying food boosts and concentrates flavors. Example of California raisins which are dried grapes.
a. California raisins are a fruit. And just ¼ cup counts as a fruit serving and is a tasty way to help meet recommended daily fruit servings.
b. Raisins are fat- and cholesterol- free, naturally low in sodium, and deliver dietary fiber and anti-oxidants.
c. It’s a 2 for 1 benefit- great flavor and good nutrition at the same time.
5. Add salsa, chutneys and sauces. Turn simple grilled meat or fish or any basic dish into an impressive restaurant-style meal. Elegant touch, and this chutney contains California golden raisins as well as flavorful spices such as red pepper, and ginger to boost flavor.

Tomato Soup with Arugula Pesto
Tomatoes contain high levels of the umami provider glutamic acid, and as the fruit ripens these levels of glutamic acid increase.
The fresh ripe tomatoes are also dried in the oven to concentrate their umami flavor.

Keep your pantry stocked with
Umami such as tomatoes and parmesan cheese
Dried mushrooms, dried tomatoes and raisins
Aromatics like onions and garlic
Combinations of these used to make rubs, salsas and sauces