What's "umami?" (Say "Ooo, Mommy!") It's the fifth flavor. No doubt you learned somewhere over the years in science class that your tongue has receptors for four flavors: Sour, sweet, bitter, and salty. Turns out there's a fifth, and the Japanese -- who have been hip to the idea for a long time -- have named it umami, which just means "deliciousness."
Umami is actually the flavor of free glutamates, and it makes any savory thing you eat with it taste better. This is the principle behind monosodium glutamate, but there are many other sources of free glutamate, and it's a near-certainty that at least a few of them are among your favorite foods: Aged cheeses, especially Parmesan and blue cheeses; mushrooms, soy sauce, tomatoes, soy sauce, Worcestershire, fish sauce, anchovies, and bacon all are loaded with the stuff. So are many seaweeds, which explains the use of dashi -- seaweed broth -- in Japanese cooking.
I wanted to develop a sprinkle-on seasoning that would add umami to foods without adding refined MSG. This is my first try. I just had it sprinkled on a nice grass-fed T-bone, and it definitely added something. I'm going to continue playing with this recipe, but here's the first go-round:
Beautiful World Seasoning Mach I
1/2 ounce dried shiitake mushrooms
2 tablespoons celery seed
2 tablespoons onion powder
1 tablespoon kelp granules
1/2 cup salt
First break up the mushrooms and grind them to a powder in your food processor. This will create a regrettable quantity of dust; I had to actually brush some up and put it back in the processor.
Add the celery seed, and grind for another minute, then add everything else, and grind till it's well-blended. Run through a strainer to remove any stray lumps of mushroom (you can save these for the next batch), then store your seasoning in an old spice shaker. Wonderful in place of salt on any kind of steak or chop.
This makes roughly a cup, or about 48 servings of 1 teaspoon, each with: 3 Calories; trace Fat (19.9% calories from fat); trace Protein; 1g Carbohydrate; trace Dietary Fiber
NOTES: You'll need a good health food store for these ingredients, or you can order stuff online. I can buy both dried shiitake (the highest-umami mushroom) and kelp granules in bulk at my local health food stores. Indeed, my local health food stores not only are my cheapest source of seasonings, they also have the biggest selection. I used good mined sea salt -- I like Real Salt brand -- and between that and the kelp there should be a few trace minerals in here, too.