The “Gina Mullin Challenge” at the International Society of Neurogastronomy Symposium is an event where two teams of neuroscientists and chefs compete, Iron Chef-style, to make dishes that appeal to people with taste challenges, such as chemotherapy patients. The event’s namesake, Gina Mullin, remarked at our first competition that sometimes when she got a craving for something, in the time it took to prepare it, the craving would be gone.
Montreal’s Chef Fred Morin won the first competition by preparing a simple but very rich potato soup as a base and offering numerous add-ins. He thought, and the chemo patients agreed, that having this flavorful base and accoutrements in the refrigerator to speed up the preparation was a winning idea.
This Super Umami Risotto follows Morin’s logic. Preparing the risotto through the third addition of liquid and then refrigerating it would also allow for quick preparation with endless flavor possibilities.
What makes something taste umami—that so-called “fifth taste” that’s super meaty and savory? The answer largely lies in an amino acid called glutamate, which binds to specific receptors on our tongues. That’s why this recipe calls for dried shiitake mushrooms. They’re significantly higher in glutamate than fresh! And while personalization options are limitless with this risotto (most vegetables can be diced and included in the sauté), additions that significantly increase the umami are asparagus and spinach.
In medium saucepan, bring broth or water to a boil. Remove from heat. Add dried mushrooms and stir. Set aside and steep for 30 minutes.
Over large bowl, strain rehydrated mushrooms through fine-mesh sieve, reserving liquid. Dice mushrooms and set aside. Add enough water to reserved liquid to equal 4 cups total. Set aside.
Heat large, heavy-bottomed saucepan or sauté pan over medium heat. Add oil to pan. Add shallots and leeks and sauté until transparent, about 2 minutes.
Stir in rice and cook over medium-low heat until opaque, about 2 minutes. Add wine and cook, stirring frequently, until wine has evaporated, about 3 minutes.
Add 1 cup reserved liquid along with thyme, bay leaf, salt, and pepper and mix well. Allow rice to simmer slowly until it is almost dry and begins to stick, about 3 minutes.
Add second cup of liquid and cook until rice is almost dry, another 3 minutes or so. Add third cup of liquid and cook until rice is almost dry, about 3 minutes.
Add fourth cup of liquid and cook for 2 minutes, or until rice is al dente. Stir in chopped mushrooms and heat through. Add more seasonings and a generous splash of lemon juice to taste.
Serve in bowls with generous gratings of vegan Parmesan, if desired.
TIP: For quick use later, after the third addition of liquid, spread the risotto onto a baking sheet to quickly cool, then transfer to a container and store in the refrigerator for up to 1 week. Reheat 1/4 of the risotto with 1/4 cup broth or water and finish the cooking process.
This recipe is part of the Neurogastronomy in Action collection.
Make no mistake, meaty grilled tofu, sweet flame-licked salsa, and chunks of crispy sweet potato make for a meal prepared in the great outdoors that puts the yum in plant-based eating. A master’s touch Perfect spuds: Crispy potatoes on the grill are a revelation. But it’s best to give them a head start on the stovetop, so the potatoes heat through before the exteriors grill to a burnt crisp. Flavourful tofu: Giving tofu a 90-degree turn on the grill halfway through cooking each side will produce a nice crosshatch pattern that makes you look like a grill master. Plus, those overlapping grill marks give tofu even better flavour.
Combine pizza and taco night by firing up the grill. Sweet flame-licked onions, melty cheese, fiery salsa, hearty beans, and crispy flatbread crust all marry well in a no-fuss pizza that comes together fast enough to work within the confines of the weekday time crunch. Set up a work area near the grill so you have all your toppings within easy reach and ready to go. You can also use large Middle Eastern-style pitas for your base. Using store-bought pizza dough? If you want to go more traditional and use pizza dough, you can certainly stick with the grill. Stretch or roll pizza dough (about 1 lb/450 g) to roughly 1/2 in (1.25 cm) thick. It need not be perfectly round or square; it just has to be even thickness. Preheat grill to medium using indirect heat (for a gas grill, leave one burner off; for a charcoal grill, shovel coals onto one side of the grill) and lightly oil grill grates. Brush one side of dough with oil, then place on grill in an area not directly over the heat, oil side down. Once dough is lightly charred and just barely set, about 1 to 2 minutes, use pizza peel or big, flat spatula to transfer it to a work surface, grilled side up. Apply toppings and return pizza to indirect heat. Close grill lid, and heat until edges of crust are crispy and cheese has melted, 5 to 7 minutes.
If a falafel and burger had a love child, this would be it. The result of this hybrid is a vibrantly coloured, complex-flavoured veggie burger you’ll flip over. You can also serve them between toasted hamburger buns with toppings such as sliced cucumber, sliced tomato, and arugula. Holding it together Many plant-based burgers are crumbly and weak, risking a patty that ends up between the grill grates instead of intact on your plate. Keep your burgers together by forming patties no larger than 1 in (2.5 cm) thick, which ensures a nice, even crust on the outside and a thoroughly warmed-through centre, then chilling the patties before grilling. You can also consider using a burger mould, which gives you denser, equally sized patties that cook evenly. Be sure your grill grates are well greased. Deep freeze You can freeze uncooked falafel burgers on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet or plate and then transfer frozen patties to an airtight container. When ready, just thaw and cook as instructed. Falafel cooking options To bake: Arrange falafel on parchment-lined baking sheet and brush lightly with oil; bake at 375 F (190 C) for 25 minutes, or until crispy on the outside and heated through. To pan fry: Heat large skillet over medium heat. Once hot, add 1 Tbsp oil (15 mL) for each 2 burgers in the pan, swirl to coat pan and cook for 3 to 4 minutes, or until underside is browned. Then flip carefully and cook for 2 to 3 minutes more.
Bet you’ve never considered making breakfast or Sunday brunch on the grill. Consider cooking your egg-soaked bread over flames as a way to coax even more flavour out of brag-worthy French toast. You can also use slices of brioche bread and whatever fruit happens to be in season. Of course, nobody could fault you for topping it all off with a drizzle of maple syrup. If you want it dairy free, you can use dairy alternatives such as oat milk and coconut yogurt. Not so fresh Somewhat stale bread is key to great French toast. You want it to be 2 to 3 days old. What if your bread isn’t aged enough? You can speed up the process by slicing bread and then placing it on a pan in 350 F (180 C) oven for about 10 minutes, or until it firms up. Make sure it’s sliced nice and thick to prevent the egg mixture-to-bread ratio being too heavy in favour of egg, resulting in soggy French toast.