Let’s talk about umami. You know, that special kind of taste that tells you something is savory. Not bitter, not salty, not spicy, not sour, but simply and enjoyably savory.
What is behind umami?
We perceive the taste of our food thanks to different kinds of taste receptors, very specialized types of proteins decorating our tongue cells. These receptors recognize molecules in our food, relay what’s in our mouths to the brain, and the result is our perception of different tastes. Although salty, sour, sweet and bitter have been recognized for a very long time (thousands of years), umami has been known for just over a century, and known to western cultures and science for less than two decades being originally discovered by a Japanese scientist, Kikunae Ikeda. The main thing behind umami is glutamate, an amino acid that occurs quite naturally in many food sources.
What are vegan sources of umami?
Although naturally occurring and therefore easily found on many plates, the umami flavors are usually tightly associated with meat. So, it is critical for anyone who is embarking on a vegan culinary voyage to learn about plant-based sources of umami. Here, tomatoes, mushrooms, potatoes, toasted nuts, and soy sauce reign supreme. This means that including one or all of these ingredients into your next savory concoction is a must and the recipe below fully embraces this suggestion!!!
Maximizing vegan umami flavors
Some of my favorite sources of savory deliciousness are portobello mushrooms and sun dried tomatoes. I use these ingredients in many different ways, either by themselves, or when building things like burgers. In the recipe below, large portobello mushrooms become a perfect vessel for a stuffing made of red quinoa, sun dried tomatoes and sunflower seeds. The result is a hearty dinner fare, that when paired with a light salad goes a long way. And did I mention how healthy this food is? With mushrooms, quinoa and seeds, you really can’t go wrong!
Stuffed Portobello Mushrooms with Red Quinoa, Sunflower Seeds, and Sun Dried Tomatoes
What you’ll need:
4 large portobello mushrooms, stems removed
1/2 cup red quinoa
3/4 to 1 cup water
2-3 scallions, trimmed
3 oz. sun dried tomatoes, thinly sliced
1/2 cup sunflower seeds, raw and unsalted, roughly chopped
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 tablespoons fresh flat leaf parsley, chopped
What you’ll do:
- Place 3/4 cup of water into a small pot and bring to boil. Add quinoa, stir well, bring back to boil then reduce heat to a gentle simmer. Let quinoa cook for 20 minutes or so. Check for doneness, and add more water, 1/8 cup at a time, letting quinoa soak it up as it simmers. This amount of quinoa should not require more than 1 cup of water and more than 30 minutes of simmering. Let quinoa cool as you prepare the rest of the ingredients.
- Turn your oven to broil. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and arrange the portobello caps, their opening facing down. Broil the mushrooms for 5 minutes, then turn them over and broil for another 3 minutes. By this time, portobello mushrooms should be cooked through. Invert the caps to remove excess liquid, then let the mushrooms cool while you finish making the stuffing.
- While mushrooms are broiling, place a large pan over the medium high heat. Add the oil, and finely sliced scallions. When slicing the scallions trim the ends then use both green and white parts.
- Let scallions brown for 1-2 minutes then add the finely sliced sun dried tomatoes and dried basil. Mix well and sauté for 2-3 minutes.
- Add sunflower seeds that have been roughly chopped and mix well. Let the seeds toast for 2 minutes or so with constant stirring.
- Add quinoa, and turn the heat off. Once the heat is off, mix in the parsley and make sure everything is well combined.
- Place the portobello mushrooms in a deeper baking dish, spoon the stuffing in, then place the mushrooms back under the broiler to char the tops. This will take 1 minute or so – and you need to pay attention here to prevent burning! If you end up with more staffing than you can fit into your mushrooms, you can serve it separately as a side dish or you can use it as a base for your stuffed mushrooms.
- Enjoy these stuffed mushrooms hot, with a side salad and perhaps a slice of fresh bread!
Copyright © Eat the Vegan Rainbow, 2018