Like Love Potion #9, this carefully balanced umami pesto has magical powers.
We explored the umami (oo-MA-mee) phenomenon in the previous post, Umami: The Fifth Taste. Now it’s time to make a little umami magic of our own. But, as I mentioned in the earlier post, an umami paste with the predominant taste of anchovies (Taste #5 Umami Paste) is not as useful as it might otherwise be. You can always add a squeeze of anchovy paste if the need arises.
I prefer a meatless, fishless umami pesto, which is adaptable to a wide range of dishes. After a few rounds of testing, tasting, and fine-tuning, this is the umami potion of my dreams. It has big taste without being so concentrated that you can only use a teaspoon of it.
So far, I ‘ve swirled generous amounts of it into carrot soup, added it to the dressing for a salmon and pasta salad, combined it with cream cheese for an appetizer spread, and spread it under the skin for a succulent roast chicken. Three cups of pesto, which at first I thought was going to last forever, disappeared in only a few days, and then MauiJim was clamoring for more.
LunaCafe Umami Pesto
Like Love Potion #9, this carefully balanced umami pesto has magical powers. It enhances without diminishing other flavors, adding depth and fullness to a dish when needed.
1½ cups shredded Parmesan
1 cup pitted Calamata olives
½ cup sun-dried tomatoes, packed in oil
½ cup roasted red bell pepper, peeled (homemade or store-bought)
4 large cloves garlic, peeled
10 tablespoons best quality tomato paste (6-ounce can)
½ cup cold pressed, extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons powdered, dried porcini mushrooms
1 teaspoon hot, smoked paprika
1½ teaspoon fine sea salt, plus more to taste
freshly ground smoked black pepper, to taste (or regular black pepper)
- In a processor fitted with the steel blade, add Parmesan, olives, tomato paste, sun-dried tomatoes, red bell pepper, and garlic, and pulse to chop the ingredients coarsely. Then, process to a paste.
- Add the tomato paste and olive oil and process to incorporate.
- Add the balsamic vinegar, red wine vinegar, powdered porcini mushrooms, smoked paprika, sand salt. Process to incorporate.
- Taste the pesto and add salt and pepper to taste, plus additional vinegar if necessary to achieve a perfect balance of savory, salty, and acidic. You will also notice a subtle sweetness, which is lent by the balsamic vinegar.
- To store, put into an airtight container and refrigerate. The pesto will keep for several days at least. You can also freeze it, in which case, line an edged baking sheet with foil and drop 2 tablespoon blobs of pesto on the foil. Freeze and then transfer the pesto blobs to Ziploc freezer bags for continued storage.
Makes about 3 cups.
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- Mail Online: You’ve tried sweet, sour, bitter and salty … now tubes of the fifth taste to be sold in supermarkets
- New York Times: The Fifth Taste Emerges from the Brine
- NPR: Sweet, Sour, Salty, Bitter … and Umami
- Nuts about Fruit: Black Garlic: Umami to the Max
- Onlifemag: What Breast Milk, Parmesan Cheese and Seaweed have in Common
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- The Rooter to the Tooter: Give & Take: Pain Perdu Farci (with Bacon Jam)
- The Sense of Taste
- The Sunday Times: Umami: The Mystery of the Fifth Taste
- The Umami Information Center
- Time U.S.: Umami: Why the Fifth flavor Shouldn’t go It Alone
- Umami Girl: Mark Bittman’s Tomato Jam
- Umami Information Center
Copyright 2011 Susan S. Bradley. All rights reserved.