Think back to your early years in school. Let’s test your memory. Name the five tastes that your tongue can detect and your brain can decode.
Have you named them all? If you’re like most people, sweet and sour will come to mind quickly. Being aware of sweet and sour flavors may have something to do with survival by our distant ancestors.
Sweet foods were most likely to be safe foods. In fact, we’re all born with a natural liking for sweet foods.
On the other hand, sour-tasting foods prompted our ancestors to proceed with caution. The food might be OK, but, then again, it might not be.
Can you think of the other three tastes? If you can’t, I’ll help you. Bitter and salty are two other tastes. Toxins, or poisons, in foods are often bitter. If you took a bite, the bitter flavor might prompt you to spit it out. In terms of salt, we need some sodium, but not too much.
If you know the last taste, you deserve a prize or maybe you attended the same nutrition conference that I did and learned something new.
The fifth taste is known as “umami,” which is derived from the Japanese word for delicious. The taste buds that detect it have been identified, too. Umami is a taste linked to protein compounds called glutamates and nucleotides found in many different foods.
For example, foods such as beef, chicken, cheese (especially Parmesan, blue cheese and cheddar), mushrooms, soybeans, cabbage, peas, corn and oysters are high in umami compounds. By combining high-umami foods, the “delicious factor” is magnified by as much as eight times.
Maybe you like tomato-based barbecue sauce on your steak or burger. Do you enjoy beef topped with sauteed mushrooms? Maybe you like chicken stir-fried with cabbage and carrots and topped with soy sauce. Perhaps you enjoy cheddar cheese melted on your hamburger. These are popular umami food combinations.
Taste is the No.1 reason that people choose the foods they do. Food companies promote flavorful foods as a leading food trend.
Savor the flavors of a variety of foods and reap the nutritional benefits, too. Choose lean cuts of meat, trim visible fat and drain any excess. Use low-fat cooking methods, such as grilling or broiling, to enhance the flavor without adding calories.
Here’s a recipe courtesy of the Cattlemen’s Beef Board. It combines the flavors of umami-rich foods, including beef, mushrooms and cheese.
Greek Steaks and Mushroom Kabobs
2 boneless beef top loin (strip) steaks (about 1 1/4 pounds), cut 1inch thick 1 pound medium mushrooms
1 medium red onion, cut into 1-inch pieces
2 Tbsp. olive oil
6 lemon wedges
1/4 c. crumbled feta cheese, optional
Lemon Pepper Rub
3 large cloves garlic, minced
2 1/2 tsp. lemon pepper
1 1/2 tsp. dried oregano
Combine rub ingredients. Toss mushrooms and onion with oil and 2 teaspoons of rub. Thread alternately onto six 12-inch metal skewers. Finish with a lemon wedge. Press remaining rub onto beef steaks. Place steaks on grill over medium, ash-covered coals. Place kabobs around steaks. Grill steaks uncovered for 15 to 18 minutes for medium-rare to medium doneness. Turn occasionally. Grill vegetables for six to eight minutes or until tender, turning occasionally. Remove vegetables from skewers and toss with cheese. Carve steaks and season with salt.
To broil, place the steaks on a rack in a broiler pan so surface of beef is 3 to 4 inches from heat. Place kabobs alongside steaks. Broil steak 13 to 17 minutes for medium-rare to medium doneness, turning once. Broil vegetables until tender and turn as needed.
Makes four servings. Each serving has 490 calories, 11 grams (g) of carbohydrate, 25 g of fat, 2 g of fiber and 250 milligrams of sodium.