by Jane Rodmell for All The Best Fine Foods, a ‘Certified Good Food Fighter

What is it that makes us respond to one particular dish as being more delicious than another?

It’s a fascinating question and one we try to answer every day at All The Best.

Science tells us that the taste buds on the human tongue respond to only a few basic tastes: sweet, sour, bitter, salty and umami , or savoriness. Umami  is the  Japanese word meaning ‘delicious flavour’ and was initially found to be present in foods that naturally contain glutamate, a type of amino acid, found in fermented foods  and ingredients such as kombu (dried kelp) familiar in Japanese, Chinese and East Asian cuisines.

In practical experience we recognize and respond to umami when particular ingredients come together in a dish in perfect synergy, for example chicken with mushrooms, pasta with Parmesan, veal with onions .

This week at All The Best we are featuring Taste #5 Umami Paste, a blend of ingredients packed with flavour. One squeeze from the tube provides a blast of parmesan, anchovies, black olives, Porcini mushrooms,  balsamic vinegar and more. I added some recently to a quick and easy pasta dish and the taste response was indeed delicious savoriness!

Pasta with Tomatoes, Arugula, Chèvre …and Umami

The savoury Umami paste adds a burst of flavour to this simple pasta dish. Perfect to serve with grilled lamb sausage, grilled shrimp, sautéed scallops or even as is with a tossed green salad on the side.

2 tbsp (30 ml) extra virgin olive oil, divided
1 cup (250 ml) mini cherry tomatoes
8 oz (250g) tacconi or farfalle
1 tbsp (15 ml) Taste #5 Umami paste
1 cup (250 ml) baby arugula
2 tbsp torn basil leaves
1 tsp (5 ml) grated lemon zest
Kosher or sea salt
Freshly ground pepper
1 cup (250 ml) soft goat cheese or ricotta salata

In a skillet, heat 1 tbsp (15 ml) oil, add mini tomatoes and toss over medium high heat until lightly charred and just beginning to soften. Set aside.

Meanwhile, cook pasta in a large saucepan of boiling, lightly salted water until al dente.  Drain and turn into a large warm bowl. Add remaining 1 tbsp (15 ml) oil and the Umami paste and toss well to coat the pasta with the savoury paste on all sides. Fold in tomatoes, arugula, basil and lemon zest.

Taste and adjust seasoning and garnish with goat cheese or ricotta salata.

Serves 4 as a side dish

Sataturday, June 18, 11 to 3: we are featuring Taste #5 Umami Paste in our continuing ‘Thank you to Our Customers’ celebrations. Come by the store-you’ll find lots of ideas to make your summer filled with spectacular tastes.

All the best and thanks again,