Offsetting The Perfect Burger

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Tomato paste gives the Potato Vindaloo its “backbone,” “structure” and “depth,” says America’s Test Kitchen’s Jack Bishop. “‘You probably wouldn’t identify it in the finished dish, but leave it out and you would notice the difference.” Joe Keller/Courtesy of America’s Test Kitchen

Fresh Air, an interview program on National Public Radio (USA), interviewed these same two people originally in 2013, and some members of Raxa Collective can still remember the description, in the podcast version of that interview heard while driving through south India, of grilling the perfect summer burger. And it inspired us to develop the perfect burger for south India, one of the few places in India where beef is available (due to the particular cultural mix of Kerala, in particular).

In the spirit of full circle, we are delighted to announce that Derek, in between Munnar joy rides and beach bliss responsibilities, has accomplished one of the missions we gave him for his time in Kerala, and its name is the Tico Burger (more on which, soon). At the same time, and just in time, to balance out our diets after taste-testing Derek’s burgers the same folks who inspired us to build a better burger are now providing insights on how to offset the carbon and karmic footprints of those burgers with some vegetarian cooking insider magic:

Just because a meal is vegetarian doesn’t mean it can’t be “meaty.” One trick to heighten the depth of flavors in plant-based dishes? Use ingredients that offer a pop of umami, say Bridget Lancaster and Jack Bishop of America’s Test Kitchen, who have released the new cookbook The Complete Vegetarian Cookbook.

Umami (which means “delicious” or “yummy” in Japanese) is the name of the savory flavor in meat and fish — and it’s recognized as one of the five tastes, along with sweet, salty, sour and bitter. Umami “incites our taste receptors on our tongue to kind of pick up that savory note from foods,” Lancaster, the executive food editor of the Test Kitchen, tells Fresh Air‘s Terry Gross.

A Fresh Guide to Eating Well With 700 Foolproof Recipes, by America's Test Kitchen. Paperback, 463 pages

A Fresh Guide to Eating Well With 700 Foolproof Recipes, by America’s Test Kitchen. Paperback, 463 pages

And umami isn’t limited to meat. Mushrooms, tomatoes and soy sauce are foods that are high in glutamates, which are the natural compounds that stimulate our umami receptors.

“As a whole, a lot of vegetarian foods, especially a while back, were kind of one-dimensional,” Lancaster asserts. “They were a little bit sweet or a little bit bitter. Especially our main courses in this cookbook really satisfy a lot of the flavors on our palate.”

Bishop, the editorial director of the Test Kitchen, says a favorite recipe of his in the book is the mushroom Bolognese.

It’s the soy sauce, he says, that makes the flavor snap.

“You would think, ‘Soy sauce in an Italian recipe?'” he says. “It doesn’t read as soy sauce in the final dish. But again, it’s adding more depth than if you were to just add an equivalent amount of salt. … If you add soy sauce, you get salt and you get the glutamates.”…

Read excerpts of, or listen to the full interview here.

One thought on “Offsetting The Perfect Burger

  1. Pingback: If You Happen To Be In New York City | Raxa Collective

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