Breakaway Cook

A Quick Bowl of Umami


Umami is my siren.

It’s pretty much constantly singing out to me, beckoning me with come-hither beams from god knows where. I manage to slip in elements of umami into almost every meal, but occasionally I have to just max it with an umami blast.

Today’s lunch break from painting — don’t even ask! — required such a blast. I had on hand, as I almost always have on hand:

  • dried and pulverized shiitake
  • dried and pulverized dried tomato
  • parm
  • onion

So far so good.  I also had:

  • ultrafresh smoked ham (from my recent pig)
  • a good hunk of butternut squash
  • a few sweet peppers
  • jalapeno
  • citron marmalade bubbling away on the stove

Cube up the squash and dice the onion and off to the races.

It’s times like these that knife skills come in really handy. Is there any skill more useful in a kitchen? Hundreds of hours of relentless practice, like hundreds of hours of anything, can make you really good at it. It’s really, really important to have one good knife that you love/cherish/take great care of. If you’re ever going to splurge on any one piece of kitchen equipment, let it be a good knife. Perhaps a short essay on how I deal with my knives might be of interest, so I will queue up a post on that anon.

Winter squash (i.e. my butternut) cooks quickly once it’s chopped up small, so I was able to finish the dish in about five minutes of high heat in a hot wok. For yet more umami goodness I sprinkled the dish with umami salt, and finished it off with fresh oregano and ham tossed with a spoon full of citron marmalade. With crackers and a glass of the house sauvignon blanc.

Fortified to paint some more!