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Umami again: pasta (or rice) with seared cabbage

Like most photos on this blog, clicking on the image will bring up a higher-resolution version.

Searing cabbage is an Asian touch, and it’s smart. Searing brings out the best flavors in cabbage. Nor do you have to scorch it. Cabbage browns easily with moderate heat and no smoking, as long as you use an oil (such as sunflower oil) suitable for the heat.

I made this dish with pasta. My Celtic digestive system gets along with wheat much better than with rice, but your mileage may vary. Slice the cabbage as thin as possible. Sear it in a skillet until it’s nicely browned. Proudly sneak in some monosodium glutamate, about 1/8 or 1/4 teaspoon per serving. You don’t need to add any salt. Make a sauce by trickling water into miso until it’s the thickness of gravy. Proudly sneak in a dash of ketchup. To the cooked pasta, add olive oil, some toasted walnuts, some parmesan, and some raisins. Pile the pasta and cabbage on a plate, then spoon some of the sauce over both of them. There’s more than enough salt in the miso alone.

The umami here comes from the monosodium glutamate, the miso, the parmesan, the ketchup and probably from the browned cabbage as well, since the umami flavor is a very brown flavor. I’m not going to include any apologetics here on the use of monosodium glumatate, which I’ve blogged about several times. In fact, I’m creating a new category of posts named “Umami.” I am of the opinion — until I see scientific evidence that might change my mind — that monosodium glutamate is a natural and harmless product that can do wonders for food and that deserves to be rehabilitated. I’m on a quest to get more umami into my cooking. Being snobbish about things like ketchup or monosodium glutamate serves no purpose. Are the Scottish snobbish about sheep bones? We must work with what’s available.

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