Umami Bomb, a cookbook review

Umami…  One word with so many expectations!  Or rather, I tend to have high expectations when I see it thrown around.  The last time I reviewed a cookbook with the word ‘umami’ in it, I was underwhelmed by the recipe testing result.  Would “Umami Bomb” by Raquel Pelzel be equally underwhelming or will it pass expectations with flying colors?

The chapters are sorted by the main umami ingredient of the recipe.  The chapters are:

  • Parm and Other Aged Cheeses
  • Soy Sauce
  • Tomatoes
  • Mushrooms
  • Caramelized Onions
  • Miso
  • Smoke
  • Nutritional Yeast
  • Fish

What sets this book slightly apart from other umami focused cookbooks is that this one is (lacto-ovo and pescatarian) vegetarian.  For better user experience (ok, that’s the nerdiest thing I’ve said on this blog), recipes are marked if they are vegan, vegan-optional, and with a rating system based on the number of umami ingredients.  What makes this book possibly better than the other umami book I’ve reviewed in the past (based on appearance only) is how approachable these recipes are. Pelzel’s book isn’t asking for any specialty ingredients if you’re living in an urban area.  It’s not asking you to build a pantry of DIY pastes, seasoning, or sauces.  

And… there’s a wealth of recipes I want to try.  I just didn’t have time to make more than one in time for this review.

  • Killer Chocolate Cake (just because I want to put soy sauce in frosting)
  • Grilled Pan Con Tomate with Miso Butter
  • Tomato ‘Nduja
  • Sick Day Tomato Soup
  • Savory Mushroom Breakfast Porridge
  • Veg and Cornbread Bake
  • Falafel-Spiced Grilled Mushrooms with Miso-Tahini Dressing
  • Mushroom Gravy
  • Caramelized Onion Korean Pancake 
  • Miso Peanut Butter Cookies
  • Polenta with Smoked Cheddar and Kale
  • Eggplant “Meatballs”

In the end, I decided to make Toasted Sesame Granola with Coconut, Orange, and Warm Spices.  I’ve never tried using sesame oil in my granola before or fresh ginger. Or soy sauce for that matter.  I try not to meddle with recipes for review, but I had to leave out the orange for this. I forgot to pick it up at the store.  Another note, cinnamon is one of the ingredients, but Pelzel suggests smoked cinnamon if you can get your hands on it. And now that I’ve made this granola, I’m seriously considering sourcing some smoked cinnamon.  The flavors in this recipe are really bold, some of the other ingredients are sesame seeds, shredded unsweetened coconut, ground ginger and ground coriander. My taste buds couldn’t really taste the sesame flavors but the amount of saltiness from the soy was perfect.  For me, the main flavors were ginger and coriander so smoked cinnamon would have matched really nicely.

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Mmmmm granola

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Unadorned, the granola is almost overwhelming but I couldn’t stop eating it anyway.  (Isn’t that kind of the point of umami anyway?) But when I topped my plain yogurt with it, it was perfect in every way. Pelzel also suggests pairing it with chocolate ice cream so obviously I need to go pick up some chocolate ice cream, sooner rather than later.

Overall, I really appreciate how unique the granola recipe is.  It makes me excited to experiment with the other recipes.

The book doesn’t have photos for everything, but that’s ok.  The photos that are there are bright and appetizing.  I think the array of recipes nicely covers a little of everything from breakfast to dessert.  I also appreciate how approachable and functional the book appears to be.  It’s all very appealing.  I definitely recommend giving this book a try if you can.

Disclaimer – I kindly received this book from Workman Publishing for this review.  I’m not getting paid for this post. The views and opinions expressed are purely my own.  The book is released September 3, 2019.

Reference Links:

http://www.raquelpelzel.com/recipes/

https://www.workman.com/

 

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Granola clusters, a Kitchen Conclusion post

First of all, I’m going to try to make this a series of posts.  I’m going to try to get off my duff and post more regularly.  I aim to cook more from my cookbook and recipe collection, and I’ll post those items that I feel warrant attention (for better or for worse!).  Here’s the first of (hopefully many) posts that I’m going to call Kitchen Conclusions.

PSA – if this series title doesn’t work for you, feel free to suggest a better one.

I have to admit that I’m a fan of Bon Appetit’s YouTube channel.  I adore Claire, Carla, and Brad who are probably the staff faces that pop up most often.

When I saw Carla make cookies by mixing granola and meringue (which is actually a Claire recipe), I knew immediately that I wanted to try it out.

It also didn’t hurt that it snowed last weekend, and that I had all of the ingredients.  (To be fair, I did make a last minute run to Trader Joe’s before it snowed, because I wasn’t convinced that I had all of the ingredients.)

The process?  Pretty straight forward.  It’s a very sticky mess when you mix the granola and meringue.  Don’t stress out over meringue.  I made a sad looking meringue, and the clusters still baked just fine.  But I highly recommend using parchment paper, because it’s so sticky.

I was good and let the clusters cool overnight, but only because Carla mentioned that the clusters were very flexible when still warm.  If you absolutely don’t have parchment paper to use and you used a greased baking sheet, the clusters will need a thin, stiff spatula to help with removal.  Or maybe just try remove the clusters when they haven’t cooled completely?  One of the baking sheets I was using had leftover coconut oil greased onto it (from making the granola portion), and I regretted using it for baking half of the cookies by the morning.  They were pretty stuck on.

Having said that, I will never ever regret making these granola clusters.  They were delicious!  I ate two and had to convince myself not to eat a third – that’d be extra snow shoveling for the sake of calorie burning than I was willing to do.  Yes, I actually ran the recipe through a calorie calculator just to help convince me not to eat a third cookie.

And then?  On Monday when I was at work, I bought a cookie with me, and basically spent half the morning staring at it.  I was trying so hard to save it for lunch, and it never made it that long.  I also gave some cookies to a co-worker just so that I didn’t end up being the only person to eat all of them.  Said co-worker and her husband also enjoyed the cookies.

In sum?

Recipe level:  Easy

Would I make it again?  Hell yes.  In fact, I might make them again this weekend for a party.  Also, it’s easy to keep these cookies gluten free if you need to.

The recipe:

https://www.bonappetit.com/recipe/granola-cluster-cookies

 

The YT video: