Umami is Japanese for delicious.

A Japanese scientist curious about why seaweed broth tasted so good discovered umami, the so-called fifth taste - after sweet, sour, salty and bitter - a century ago.

An amino acid found naturally in many foods, umami is a savory, mouthwatering quality that enhances food.

Imagine the vivid funk of a Mediterranean-style pizza and you've got the flavor profile of Taste No. 5 Umami Paste, a new product that can add zip to your cooking.

The paste, which sells for about $6 for a 2.46-ounce tube, is ripe with the flavors of anchovies, black olives, tomatoes, porcini mushrooms, balsamic vinegar, and Parmesan cheese - all of which contain umami.

Taste No. 5 is described as a "flavor bomb" by its maker, Laura Santtini, a London restaurateur and author of Easy Tasty Italian (Sterling, $24.95).

The umami paste is ruddy red in color and bright with flavor. You can taste the saltiness of the anchovies, the winey sharpness of black olives, and the meatiness of the mushrooms. A squeeze as-is would be nice on a freshly toasted crostini, as the product publicity suggests. But it works equally well stirred into sauces, dressings and various cooked dishes. I even sneaked a little into the Thanksgiving stuffing; the paste added a needed but not necessarily identifiable oomph.

Santtini has more taste tricks up her sleeve. She has created the Easy Tasty Magic line of flavor-boosting products marketed under such whimsical names as Inca Stardust, Carnal Sin Rub, and the Devil's Breath, which is a brandy liqueur-based spray spiked with hot peppers and edible gold. These products are in Canada and the United Kingdom now; a full introduction into the U.S. market is planned for 2011, but for now you can find Taste No. 5 at chefcentral.com.

U-Mamma! Compound Butter

Makes 24 servings

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1 stick softened butter

1-2 tablespoons Taste #5

   Umami Paste

1 tablespoon chopped flat-

   leaf parsley

Ground black pepper

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1. Cream the butter and other ingredients in a bowl. Adjust seasoning and roll in a sausage shape.

2. Wrap in plastic and chill in the fridge. When firm, slice and use to top grilled meats and fish.

- From LauraSanttini.com

 

Per serving: 37 calories, trace protein, trace carbohydrates, trace sugar, 4 grams fat, 10 milligrams cholesterol, 27 milligrams sodium, trace dietary fiber.EndText

Wild Mushroom Trifolata

Makes 6-8 appetizer servings

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2 tablespoons olive oil

2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced

4 cups mixed wild mush-            rooms, whole, portabella       or shiitake, roughly sliced

1-2 tablespoons Taste #5          Umami Paste

A splash of white wine

1 handful of chopped flat-          leaf parsley

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1. Heat the oil in a large frying pan. Add garlic and sizzle until it begins to color. Add mushrooms and umami paste and saute until soft. Splash with wine and toss until they begin to caramelize. Lightly season with salt, black pepper, and chopped parsley.

2. Toss over high heat and serve immediately, topped with grated Parmesan cheese. Serve with small Italian toasts

.

- From LauraSanttini.com

 

Per serving (based on 8): 60 calories, 2 grams protein, 3 grams carbohydrates, 2 grams sugar, 5 grams fat, no cholesterol, 5 milligrams sodium, trace dietary fiber.EndText