Tuesday, September 27, 2011

What You Know: Taste

I was talking to a new friend from Holland over the weekend. His wife is an old friend of ours and now she does the cooking. I of course don't hold this against him. He works strange hours and provides for her so that she can take care of a home and enjoy her life in Holland, living behind a dyke.

What was interesting is when we talked about our tomato garden. "I love tomatoes," he began, but then he continued, "They have a light taste, very easy to eat. I can't imagine someone not liking a tomato."

I told him that if he loved a food like that, he would love cooking it too. Tomato isn't just another ingredient in catsup for him, it's an entity. It's a part of his life.

If you are going to cook for someone you love, you should think about foods and tastes you feel passionate about. It is more likely you won't do anything to ruin the taste. Ruining, however, is all in your perspective. When I worked with an accomplished cook in another state with mushrooms, he had a different idea on how to bring out the flavor.

I grill my mushrooms in light oil (not low fat, just light in color). Once it takes the oil into its gills, I add a light seasoning, an herb like rosemary and a spice like sage. Most of the time, cheese gets involved, like swiss or mozzarella. It is a warm, lingering taste.

He doused his in balsamic vinegar, basically acid blanched it. The taste was bright. It popped, then the balsamic stayed for a bit (aged balsamic) then blended in to my palate. I would have ruined it if I went vinegar, because I didn't see it the way he did.

If you like something, say tomatoes, try different things. Grill them. Grill the skin first, then try opening it and grilling the meat. USe tomato paste in beef stew and lentil soup (there's really no other way). Buy sundried tomatoes. Incorporate two styles of tomatoes in one dish.

Think hard about the taste you like, then follow that direction. Learn how your favorite tastes work together.

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