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Kitchen Creativity

Kitchen Creativity by Karen Page

In a break from my usual recipe posts, I’d like to share an excerpt from Karen Page’s new book entitled Kitchen Creativity.

Beyond a cookbook, Kitchen Creativity is a guide to inventive cooking (without recipes!) that will inspire you to think, improvise, and cook like the world’s best chefs. Great cooking is as much about intuition and imagination as it is about flavor and technique. Kitchen Creativity gives insights into these creative processes from more than 100 top restaurant kitchens, including the Bazaar, Blue Hill, Daniel, and Dirt Candy.

Based on four years of research and dozens of in-depth interviews, Kitchen Creativity illuminates the methods of culinary invention. Part I reveals how to learn foundational skills, including how to appreciate, taste, and season classic dishes before reinventing the classics from a new perspective. Part II’s A-to-Z entries are an invaluable culinary idea generator, with exercises to prompt new recipe ideas and combinations.
While not a cookbook, nor a vegan book, for that matter (although vegan chefs and ingredients are very well represented), Kitchen Creativity has a lot to offer for cooks looking to broaden their creativity in the kitchen.  The following is an excerpt from Kitchen Creativity on one of my favorite topics, umami…

Umami from Kitchen Creativity

“Umami” from Kitchen Creativity by Karen Page

The taste of umami is imparted by glutamate, a type of amino acid discovered in 1908 by Dr. Kikunae Ikeda of Tokyo Imperial University. In studying kombu (kelp), Ikeda managed to isolate glutamate as its own compound, giving it the name of umami, which translates as “savoriness.” Thus, 5,000 years after the discovery of salt, and 4,000 years after the discovery of sugar, and 3,500 years after the discovery of sour (vinegar), umami is a relatively new taste concept. Japanese cooks had been using umami-rich ingredients intuitively for centuries, long before their scientific properties were discovered to enhance flavor.

While we first mentioned umami in our 1996 book Culinary Artistry, it did not begin to gain more widespread acceptance until after 2000 when glutamate receptors were discovered on the tongue. The main sources of umami are those deriving from 1) the amino acid glutamate (found in, e.g., kelp); and those deriving from 2) so-called “nucleotides”—such as a) adenylate (aka AMP, which is found primarily in fish and shellfish), b) guanylate (aka GMP, which is found primarily in plants and fungi, e.g., shiitake mushrooms, esp. dried), and c) inosinate (aka IMP, which is found primarily in meat and fish, e.g., bonito flakes).

The big umami magic happens when one or more nucleotides are combined with glutamate, as there is a synergistic affect—resulting in umami with as much as eight times the potency.

Umami Dynamics

Umami can enhance a bland dish’s appeal with mouth-filling savoriness. Umami can also enhance a dish’s perceived sweetness, while tempering its perceived bitterness. If you find yourself with too much of a good thing when it comes to umami, try balancing with salty, sweet, bitter, acidic, or piquant ingredients.

Umami is a taste that tends to linger on the palate—something referred to as a “long finish” in the wine world. Because it contributes to the qualities of deliciousness and satiation, umami is especially prized as a taste in dishes and menus.

Note: Certain herbs and spices can also emphasize a dish’s savory aspects, such as bay leaf, cumin, oregano, paprika, sage, and thyme.

Using Umami

Chefs praise black garlic (aka fermented garlic) for its ability to add depth and earthiness to dishes ranging from vegetables to meats.

If you doubt umami’s importance as one of the five primary tastes, consider the fact that leading chefs like Michael Anthony, Eric Ripert, and Jean-Georges Vongerichten believe dashi to be a key component of their cooking. Some chefs use it to replace liquids in countless preparations, from brines to broths to salad dressings.

Chefs have rising enthusiasm for all manner of fermented ingredients (e.g., fermented soybeans, kimchi, miso, pickles, sauerkraut), which bring umami to dishes including vegetables.

The corn smut known as huitlacoche is prized as a Mexican delicacy, not only by chefs cooking in the vernacular like Rick Bayless, but also mainstream chefs who find themselves using it in quesadillas, soups, and tacos. Sean Brock declares is “insanely delicious and luxurious, like black truffles.”

Kombu (aka kelp, the sea vegetable) is prized for its umami by Yoshihiro Narisawa.

Brad Farmerie is fanatical about miso, which allows him to achieve a rich mouthfeel without butter or cream. Miso is an integral part of Farmerie’s roasted chile caramel Brussels sprouts, which involve caramelizing sugar (sweet) before adding chiles (hot), cilantro stems (bitter), lime juice (sour), fish sauce (salt/umami), and miso (richness). He adds miso to sweet potatoes + brown butter + rosemary to create another dish he’s not able to take off the menu. Other chefs will add misos (e.g., white) to salad dressings or soups for an umami boost.

From his time in Japan, Michael Anthony picked up a love of “sea weeds and pickles.”

Thomas Henkelmann describes rich, flavorful stocks as “essential” for cooking in every season.

Umeboshi paste is prized by chefs, including Isa Chandra Moskowitz of Omaha’s and Brooklyn’s Modern Love, for its umami quality. Moskowitz adds it to her Caesar salad dressing for its anchovy flavor.

Even native Brits like Mark Levy fall prey to the charms of white truffles, which he prizes for their mysterious aroma and short availability.

Excerpted from Kitchen Creativity: Unlocking Culinary Genius—with Wisdom, Inspiration, and Ideas from the World’s Most Creative Chefs by Karen Page (Little, Brown, October 31, 2017).

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Vegan Chocolate Macadamia Truffles with Coconut

Robin Robertson's Vegan Chocolate Macadamia Truffles with Coconut – Dairy-Free, Soy-Free, Gluten-Free

When you love chocolate, macadamia nuts, and coconut, there’s only one thing to do – make these decadently delicious truffles. Chocolate Macadamia Truffles with Coconut are great for holiday gift giving, and they’re a terrific addition to dessert trays at parties, too!

Vegan Chocolate Macadamia Truffles with Coconut

Robin Robertson's Vegan Chocolate Macadamia Truffles with Coconut – Dairy-Free, Soy-Free, Gluten-Free
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Chocolate Macadamia Truffles with Coconut

When you love chocolate, macadamia nuts, and coconut, ?there’s only one thing to do – make these decadently delicious truffles.
Course Dessert
Cuisine American
Yields 12 truffles
Author Robin Robertson

Ingredients

  • 1 1/3 cups shredded unsweetened coconut
  • 1/3 cup semisweet vegan chocolate chips
  • 1/3 cup macadamia butter
  • 3 tablespoons coconut milk
  • 2/3 cup confectioners’ sugar

Instructions

  1. Finely chop the coconut by pulsing it in a food processor. Set aside.
  2. Place the chocolate in a heatproof bowl and set it over a small saucepan of simmering water until the chocolate melts. (Alternatively, melt the chocolate chips by placing them in a small microwaveable bowl and microwave on high for about 1 1/2 minutes, or just until the chocolate is completely melted.) Add the macadamia butter and coconut milk and blend until smooth and creamy.
  3. Place the chocolate mixture, sugar, and 1/3 cup of the reserved coconut into a food processor and process until well combined.
  4. Shape the mixture into 1-inch balls and roll them in the remaining 1 cup coconut, pressing so the coconut adheres to the truffles. Place the truffles on a platter or a baking sheet. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use.

Recipe Notes

The Nut Butter Cookbook

From The Nut Butter Cookbook by Robin Robertson. ©2014 Robin Robertson. Used by permission from Vegan Heritage Press. Photo by Lori Maffei.

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Too-Easy Chocolate-Peanut Butter Fudge

Too-Easy Chocolate-Peanut Butter Fudge from The Nut Butter Universe by Robin Robertson - vegan, dairy-free, gluten-free, and soy-free. Perfect for holiday gift giving and Christmas celebrationsThis Chocolate-Peanut Butter Fudge is too easy not to make on a regular basis! It firms up quickly, so be sure to get it into the pan right away. For a soy-free fudge, use a soy-free vegan butter.

Too-Easy Chocolate-Peanut Butter Fudge from The Nut Butter Universe by Robin Robertson - vegan, dairy-free, gluten-free, and soy-free. Perfect for holiday give giving and Christmas celebrations
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Too-Easy Chocolate-Peanut Butter Fudge

This fudge is too easy not to make on a regular basis!
Course Dessert
Cuisine American
Prep Time 10 minutes
Total Time 10 minutes
Yields 36 pieces
Author Robin Robertson

Ingredients

  • 8 ounces semisweet vegan chocolate. coarsely chopped, or vegan chocolate chips
  • 1 cup peanut butter
  • 1/2 cup vegan butter
  • 1 cup confectioners’ sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Instructions

  1. Lightly grease an 8-inch square baking pan.
  2. Place the chocolate, peanut butter, and butter in a heatproof bowl and set it over a saucepan of simmering water, stirring until the chocolate melts and the mixture is smooth.
  3. Turn off the heat. Whisk in the sugar and vanilla until smooth and well blended.
  4. Scrape the mixture into the prepared pan and cool until firm. Cut into 1 1/2-inch squares. Keep refrigerated.

Recipe Notes

The Nut Butter Cookbook

From The Nut Butter Cookbook by Robin Robertson. ©2014 Robin Robertson. Used by permission from Vegan Heritage Press. Photo by Lori Maffei.

 

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Vegan Cheesy Crackers

Vegan Cheesy Crackers from Veganize It! by Robin RobertsonIt’s easy to find crackers without animal ingredients, unless of course, your favorite crackers happen to be the cheesy ones. Now you can make vegan Cheesy Crackers at home, complete with the delicious crunch and flavor you love but without the animal ingredients and additives.

 

Vegan Cheesy Crackers
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Cheesy Crackers

Now you can make vegan Cheesy Crackers at home, complete with the delicious crunch and flavor you love but without the animal ingredients and additives.

Course Appetizer
Cuisine American
Author Robin Robertson

Ingredients

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons nutritional yeast
  • ½ teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon garlic powder
  • ¼ teaspoon smoked paprika
  • ? teaspoon turmeric
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon vegan butter
  • 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
  • 5 to 6 tablespoons cold water, or more as needed

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. In a medium bowl, combine the flour, nutritional yeast, baking powder, salt, garlic powder, smoked paprika, and turmeric. Mix well. Add the olive oil, butter, and lemon juice, mixing with a fork until the dough is fine and crumbly. Add the water a tablespoon at a time until the dough becomes cohesive.
  2. Transfer the dough to a piece of parchment paper large enough to fit a large rimmed baking pan. (You can use a Silpat instead, if you have one.) Top the dough with another sheet of parchment paper and roll out the dough until thin, measuring about 11 x 13 inches. Transfer the parchment paper and rolled-out dough to a large rimmed baking sheet. Remove the top sheet of parchment paper and cut the rolled dough into 2-inch squares. If desired, remove any uneven pieces of dough from around the edges and press together into a small disk and roll it out to get more crackers that are a uniform size. (Otherwise, you’ll have a few partial crackers from around the end to nibble on!)
  3. Bake for 15 to 17 minutes, or until the crackers are baked but not browned. The color should be golden. Cool completely on the baking sheet. These crackers keep well for a week in a sealed container at room temperature.

Recipe Notes

Veganize It!Text excerpted from VEGANIZE IT! © 2017 by Robin Robertson. Reproduced by permission of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. All rights reserved. Photo by William and Susan Brinson.

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Easy as Chocolate Pie

Robin Robertson's Easy as Chocolate Pie – vegan and easy to makeThis decadent vegan chocolate pie assembles in minutes. After some time in the fridge, it’s ready to serve. What can be easier than that?

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Easy as Chocolate Pie

This decadent chocolate pie assembles in minutes.
Course Dessert
Cuisine American
Yields 8 servings
Author Robin Robertson

Ingredients

  • 12 ounces vegan semisweet chocolate chips
  • 1/4 cup almond milk or other nondairy milk
  • 1 tablespoon coconut oil
  • 1/2 cup chopped nuts, optional
  • 1/2 cup sweetened dried cranberries, cherries, or blueberries (optional)
  • 1 vegan chocolate cookie crust (Keebler’s brand is vegan-friendly)
  • Chocolate curls or chopped nuts, for garnish

Instructions

  1. In a saucepan, combine the chocolate chips, almond milk, and coconut oil over medium heat. Cook, stirring until the chocolate and coconut oil are melted. Stir in the nuts and dried fruit, if using, until well combined.
  2. Transfer the chocolate mixture to the crust and spread evenly. Refrigerate for at least 3 hours to firm up before serving. Garnish the top with chocolate curls.

Recipe Notes

Cook the Pantry by Robin Robertson

Recipe from Cook the Pantry © 2015 by Robin Robertson. Photo by Annie Oliverio. Used by permission Vegan Heritage Press LLC.

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The How Not to Die Cookbook

The How Not to Die Cookbook

It gives me great pleasure to announce the upcoming release of The How Not to Die Cookbook by Michael Greger with Gene Stone — especially because the recipes are by yours truly.  The book comes out of December 5th, but you can pre-order now.

The recipes in the book are based on Dr. Greger’s best-selling book, How Not To Die, and feature a variety of whole foods plant-based recipes, including this Roasted Vegetable Lasagna:

Roasted Vegetable Lasagna from The How Not to Die Cookbook

Black Bean Burger:

Black Bean Burger from The How Not to Die Cookbook

and Spicy Asian Vegetable Soup:

Spicy Asian Vegetable Soup from The How Not to Die Cookbook

If you’ve been wondering how to incorporate more of Dr. Greger’s “Daily Dozen” into your diet, then The How Not to Die Cookbook is the cookbook for you.

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