Savor Big Flavor

Savor Big Flavor
Like salt and MSG, umami foods help enhance the flavors of the foods they are served with. Unlike salt and MSG, however, there are no known limitations on natural umami. "The more umami flavors in the mix, the better," says umami flavor expert Jacqueline B. Marcus, R.D., associate professor and department chair of Culinary Nutrition at Kendall College in Chicago.

Two potential health benefits of eating umami foods: They're so satisfying, you may be less inclined to overeat or add as much salt. When you use high-sodium umami foods such as soy sauce and aged cheeses, you only need a little, since they have such concentrated flavors.

Our East-meets-West recipes will help you explore the fifth taste in your own kitchen. By using ultraflavorful ingredients, you can unlock the umami essence in any meal you make.

Ten Ways to Up the Umami Factor 1. Toss dried mushrooms (that have been reconstituted in water, broth, or wine and drained) into basic rice and pilaf mixtures when cooking.
2. Brush steaks with naturally brewed soy sauce or Worcestershire sauce during grilling.
3. Roast sunflower seeds or toast nuts and add them to any type of salad.
4. Enrich tofu or poultry mixtures by adding tomato sauce or tomato paste.
5. Drizzle some aged balsamic vinegar over fresh or grilled vegetables.
6. Sprinkle a little Worcestershire sauce into veggie soups, sauces, and dips.
7. Flavor baked, roasted, or mashed potatoes with a few drops of truffle oil.
8. Add a splash of full-bodied red wine to plain tomato sauce.
9. Stir crumbled blue cheese into plain yogurt to use as a sandwich condiment.
10. Braise kale or spinach and serve as a "bed" for entrees like roasted pork loin.

The Umami-Friendly Kitchen Chances are, you already have many umami ingredients on hand in your kitchen. Some of the most commonly used include:

•Balsamic vinegar (aged)
•Cheese (aged), including Parmigiano-Reggiano and blue cheese
•Fermented beans and bean products, such as miso and fermented black beans
•Mushrooms--fresh and dried--such as shiitake, portobello, and morel
•Peas, carrots, cabbage
•Red wine and port
•Sauces, including Worcestershire sauce, Asian fish sauce, soy sauce, Asian chili sauce, and ketchup
•Seafood, including sea vegetables, seaweed, fish, and shellfish
•Seeds and nuts
•Stocks and broths
•Tomatoes and tomato products