24 August 2019

Weekend Cooking: Umami Bomb by Raquel Pelzel

Review of Umami Bomb by Raquel PelzelWhether you’re a full-time vegetarian or only a part-time one like me, I bet you can always use some new ideas for sparking up your meals. Raquel Pelzel’s Umami Bomb (Workman, Sept. 3) provides 75 colorful and flavorful recipes that will make you happy to get into the kitchen and even happier to eat.

As with all Workman cookbooks, the design is fresh and bright, with thick semi-gloss paper and crayon-colored borders. The beautiful full-page photographs make me want to get cooking—right now!

Pelzel’s focus for the recipes in this cookbook is twofold: the deep, satisfying flavor that is umami and a range of vegetarian dishes. In marrying these themes, she explores six ingredients or flavors: aged cheese, soy sauce, tomatoes, mushrooms, caramelized onions, miso, smoke, and nutritional yeast. The dishes in Unami Bomb concentrate on lunch, dinner, and sides, though a few of them will help wake you up (Cheddar cheese waffles, mushroom porridge) and others are for pure indulgence (miso peanut butter cookies, grilled banana splits).

While the recipes in the cheese chapter are clearly not vegan, many of the others are or can be adapted for a vegan diet. Pelzel marks each recipe so you can tell at a glance if the dish will fit your lifestyle. Note that the book ends with three bonus fish recipes . . . don’t miss them!

Review of Umami Bomb by Raquel PelzelI have a bunch of recipes marked to try. Here is one from each chapter, many with fall flavors:

  • Gouda-Apple-Thyme Galettes: I love apples with cheese
  • Sheet Pan Chile-Soy Glazed Brussels Sprouts: I’ll sub pecans for the roasted peanuts
  • Tomato ‘Nduja: an Italian-inspired vegan tomato pate
  • Mushroom Salad Tart: baked in a phyllo shell
  • Onion and Rosemary Jam: okay, now I have to bake bread
  • Miso Broccoli with Orecchiette: I rarely say no to pasta
  • Polenta with Smoked Cheddar and Kale: OMG
  • Eggplant “Meatballs”: with nutritional yeast; see the scan (yummm)
Throughout Unami Bomb, Pelzel provides helpful hints, explanations of ingredients and flavors, and storage information. The recipes themselves are well written and easy to follow.

Recommendation: Raquel Pelzel’s Umami Bomb is perfect for cooks looking to explore the fifth taste and dishes with that special can’t-resist oomph to elevate mealtime to a dining experience. While I can’t say every single recipe is groundbreaking—I’m sure there are millions of roasted tomato salsa recipes around—I liked learning more about umami and how to incorporate it into my everyday cooking.

Note: The scans and recipe are used here in the context of a review. All rights remain with the original copyright holders. Thank you to Workman for providing a review copy of the cookbook.

Review of Umami Bomb by Raquel PelzelSimple Soy Marinara
Makes 2 cups
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
  • 6 fresh basil leaves, roughly torn
  • Pinch of crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 box (26.5 ounces) tomato puree
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
Heat the oil with the garlic in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Once the garlic starts to sizzle, add the basil and crushed red pepper flakes and continue to cook, stirring often, until the garlic is golden, 30 seconds to 1 minute.

Add the tomato puree, soy sauce, and salt, reduce the heat to medium-low, and cook, stirring often, for 2 minutes.

Taste and add more salt if needed then turn off the heat and set aside to cool if not using right away. The sauce will keep in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.

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rhapsodyinbooks 8/24/19, 6:04 AM  

The galettes and polenta sound really good to me. Definitely sounds like a cookbook worth checking out, and as you say, Workman does such a nice job!

gluten Free A_Z Blog 8/24/19, 7:02 AM  

I love a cookbook with lots of colorful photos. I am always looking for a good vegetarian meatball. The eggplant meatballs sound promising!

Mae Travels 8/24/19, 7:03 AM  

As suggested by your list, Asian food is incredibly rich in umami flavor -- and it was a Japanese scientist who discovered the amino acids that give this elusive flavor to foods. He also figured out how to produce pure umami flavor: MSG. (Or its alternate more modern version, Maggi seasoning sauce, also more or less pure umami.)

t's sad that mistaken observations, prejudicially named "Chinese Restaurant Syndrome," gave MSG/umami such a bad name. If the misinformation about it were true, no one could eat all those delicious dishes you described. It is also fascinating that the crystals on the rind of Parmesan cheese are essentially pure umami.

I bet all this info is in your book!

best... mae at maefood.blogspot.com

Tea 8/24/19, 7:55 AM  

I'm not a vegetarian, but I do love vegetables.

Tina 8/24/19, 7:55 AM  

The eggplant meatballs are sure to be a hit. I love eggplant. What a cook book and layout.

Jackie McGuinness 8/24/19, 8:07 AM  

I will never be vegan, but I do love my veggies! I have been looking for more inspiring veg dishes. Tomato pate is a definite try. Would love to sneak the eggplant meatballs into John's meal, he professes to HATE it.

bermudaonion 8/24/19, 8:29 AM  

I have a friend who needs this cookbook. Thanks for bringing it to my attention.

Vicki 8/24/19, 12:40 PM  

I've never heard of eggplant meatballs but I love eggplant and they sound really good.

Abigail Pearson 8/24/19, 3:15 PM  

Glad you liked this book!

(Diane) bookchickdi 8/25/19, 3:59 PM  

Oh I think my daughter-in-law would love this book.

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