March in the Kitchen – Parmesan Broth

March in the Kitchen – Parmesan Broth

For many years it was thought that there were only four main flavors we can taste; sour, sweet, salty and bitter. Umami is now considered the fifth flavor, coined in 1908 by a chemist at Tokyo University. It’s quality is a meaty or savory taste. Umami is roughly translated as yummy deliciousness. Foods that naturally contain umami include asparagus, tomatoes, cheese, meat, dashi (stock from the seaweed kelp), and mushrooms. Fermented foods such as soy sauce, cheese, cured meats and fish have it in abundance. The chemist was able to pinpoint glutamate, an amino acid, as the main source of this savory wonder. He then learned how to produce it in industrial quantities. We know that product as MSG.

Slow cooking for an extended period will release natural glutamate. Cooked foods with a high umami factor often have layers of taste, a combination of glutamates and a group of chemicals called ribonucleotides (occurring naturally in many foods). When you combine ingredients containing different umami-giving compounds, they enhance each other. Such is the case with Bolognese sauce with cheese on top. In fact, cooked meat, tomato and cheese are a 1-2-3-punch combo. Think pepperoni pizza, I know I do.

Just as humans evolved to crave sweetness and loathe bitter to help avoid toxins, umami is a marker of protein (which is made up of amino acids) essential for life. We are instinctually drawn to it.

Parmesan cheese is very high in umami. Freshly grated Parmesan, added at the end, will elevate a pasta dish to sublime. Search out the best Parmesan you can find, a little goes a long way and you won’t regret it. Keep it in the fridge or freezer and use it as needed, I think you will find lots of uses. Try in on scrambled eggs, or roast vegetables, even on crisp toasted rustic (slightly charred) bread with a drizzle of olive oil.

Then don’t throw out the rinds once you have grated every last bit of cheese! In Italy a Parmesan rind is often tossed into minestrone for extra depth of flavor. Try one in a simple pot of beans, it makes a big difference. I keep a zip top bag in the freezer and collect them until I have enough to make this absolutely fabulous and delicious broth that is bursting with umami.

Parmesan rinds

A Collection of Parmesan Rinds

Let me introduce you to Parmesan Broth, a powerhouse of the fifth flavor. Use it as a versatile stock for soup, or anywhere you need a flavor boost. For vegetarians this broth is a huge flavor enhancer, it closely resembles a long simmered chicken stock. Simply simmering the broth fills your kitchen with the most amazing aroma, I couldn’t resist drinking a mug full once it was finished.

Parmesan Broth (makes 4-6 cups)

  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 yellow onion, peeled and quartered
  • 1 head of garlic, halved crosswise
  • 1 bunch of fresh thyme
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 3-4 parsley sprigs
  • 1 teaspoon of black peppercorns
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 1 lb. of Parmesan rinds
  • 8 cups of water
  1. Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the onion, garlic, thyme bay leaf, parsley and peppercorns. Cook, stirring often, until the onion and garlic are toasty brown about 5-10 minutes.
  2. Add the wine, bring to a simmer, and cook, scraping up any brown bit until the liquid is reduced by half, about 5 minutes.
  3. Add the Parmesan rinds and 8 cups of water to the saucepan, bring to a boil.
  4. Turn down the heat and simmer, uncovered, for 2 hours. Stir occasionally so the rinds don’t stick to the bottom of the pot.
  5. Strain through a fine mesh strainer.

Use immediately or store in the fridge up to four days. Freeze for longer storage. This recipe makes a 4-6 cups of stock, depending on how reduced it becomes. You can easily double it if you have more rinds. I don’t salt when making the broth, instead I add salt when it is used.

onion, garlic, thyme, parsley, peppercorns and bayleaf in olive oil

onion, garlic, thyme, parsley, peppercorns and bayleaf in olive oil

Parmesan broth

Parmesan broth cooking

Parmesan Brot

Finished Parmesan Broth, cooling before straining

The finished broth is the most lovely shade of golden yellow!

 

This recipe was first published in Bon Appetit.

November in the kitchen – Magic Mineral Broth

November in the kitchen – Magic Mineral Broth

I realize that this post isn’t ‘sexy’. But, handmade stock or broth can make a huge difference to the flavor of your cooking. The beginning class of my mother’s cooking school was always about stocks.

Do you remember the old Campbell’s soup slogan, “M’m! M’m! Good!”? The soup you make yourself is even better. And a soup made with your own stock or broth is better still. Commercial soups and stocks are full of ingredients like high fructose corn sugar; even organic chicken broth from Trader Joe’s contains cane sugar! Good stock doesn’t need any sugar.

Here in the Northern hemisphere we are entering the season of soups, stews, colds, and flu. I hope you enjoy lots of the first two, and none of the second two. This broth can serve as a delicious sipping soup, as well as a base for hearty soups and stews. It’s a powerful tool for your panty, with the added benefit of being a cure for whatever ails you. Make it in big batches and stock it in the freezer. It will add flavor and minerals to everything you cook.

The recipe comes from the book “The Cancer Fighting Kitchen” by Rebecca Katz with Mat Edelson. Don’t let the title put you off. This stock is amazingly flavorful as well as good for you. There are two versions in this post; the first is vegan and vegetarian. The second uses chicken. Both are gluten free.

If you have friends or family battling cancer and the side effects of treatment, I cannot recommend this book enough. But, the recipes are for everyone. This soup is a delicious nutritional powerhouse. It’s full of magnesium, potassium, and sodium; it allows your body to rejuvenate itself. Rebecca Katz calls it a tonic.

There is a long list of vegetables; but you don’t have to peel anything, just rinse them well, cut or break them into large pieces, and throw them into the pot to cook. And if you are missing one of them, don’t worry. I forgot to buy celery at the store so used more stems from the parsley. It will still be excellent.

You will need a large stockpot to cook this, at least 12 quarts. If necessary you have cut the recipe in half and cook it in a slow cooker or a smaller pot. I made two half batches, one vegetarian and one with chicken.

Magic Mineral Broth

  • 6 unpeeled carrots, cut in thirds
  • 2 unpeeled yellow onions, cut in chunks
  • 1 leek, white and green parts, cut into thirds
  • 1 bunch of celery, including the heart, cut into thirds
  • 4 unpeeled potatoes, quartered
  • 2 unpeeled Japanese or regular sweet potatoes, quartered
  • 1 unpeeled garnet yam, quartered
  • 5 unpeeled cloves of garlic, halved
  • ½ bunch of flat leaf parsley
  • 6 sprigs of fresh thyme or 1 teaspoon of dried thyme
  • 1 8-inch strip of kombu seaweed
  • 12 black peppercorns
  • 4 whole allspice or juniper berries
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 8 quarts cold water
  • 1 teaspoon of sea salt
Kombu seaweed

Kombu

vegetables for magic mineral broth

Vegetables for magic mineral broth

  1.  Rinse all the vegetables including the kombu.
  2. In a large stockpot (12 quarts or larger) combine everything except the salt.
  3. Fill the pot with water to 2 inches below the rim of the pot, cover, and bring to a boil.
  4. Remove the lid once it comes to a boil, turn the heat to low, and simmer, uncovered, for at least 2 hours. (The longer the simmer time, the better this broth will taste as the goodness leaches out of the vegetables.)
  5. Let the broth cool slightly and then strain it through a large, coarse-mesh sieve into a large bowl.
  6. Add salt to taste.
  7. Once completely cool, refrigerate or freeze.

This will keep 5 days in the refrigerator, or freeze for 4 months.

Note: Since you are not peeling the vegetables, use organic ones if at all possible.

You can turn this into chicken magic mineral broth by the addition of a chicken carcass or 2 pounds of chicken bones.

Chicken Magic Mineral Broth

  • All ingredients listed above plus
  • 1 organic chicken carcass or 2 pounds of chicken bones (I save bones in the freezer until I have enough for a batch of broth)
  1. Add the chicken with the vegetables and proceed as in the recipe above
  2. Once the stock comes to a boil, skim off any scum that rises to the top
  3. Simmer at least 4 hours
  4. Strain as above
  5. Add salt to taste.
  6. Once cool, skim off any fat on the top. This is easier if you refrigerate the broth overnight.

Because of the chicken, the keeping time in the fridge is slightly less, 3-4 days, freezer 3 months.

I’m putting this at the end as I don’t want to lecture. Feel free to skip the rest. My blog is mainly about the adventures of cooking, gardening, and eating. Although many of my recipes are healthy, health is a by-product not a singular goal. I want my recipes to be delicious, nourishing, and approachable. That being said, I feel strongly about stock and the benefits of making it at home. Here are a few examples…

  • Onions act as an expectorant that helps with mucous flow.
  • Carrots are a powerful antiseptic and good for respiratory infections.
  • Celery works to relax muscles and promotes restful sleep.
  • Garlic is a well-documented natural remedy; it has antiseptic powers and stimulates the immune system to fight infections.
  • Thyme leaves fight infection.
  • Bay leaves are great for thinning mucous.
  • Kombu and sea salt are rich in minerals from the sea; they help replenish electrolytes.

The broth made from simmering the chicken bones becomes a “bone stock”. Chicken soup has been a well-known remedy for years, and we now know it is more than an old wives tale. The nutrients that leach out of the bones and into the broth have active healing properties that aid in immune system health. The cartilage and collagen from the bones aid in keeping our intestines and bones healthy. In the picture below, the chicken broth has been chilled. Notice the jellied appearance due to the dissolved cartilage and collagen. This is good stock!

Jellied Chicken Broth

Jellied Chicken Broth

 

Home-made stock vs. commercial organic stock

Magic Mineral Chicken Stock on left, Organic Chicken Stock on right

 

Notice the difference in the homemade stock (on left) and commercial organic stock on the right.

There are sniffles in our household, the first of the season. This broth is my first line of defense. I’ll be taking it to Miz Helen’s Country Cottage for Full Plate Thursday to help head off any colds and flu going around the group.

What should I do with the leftover commercial stock?

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