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  • 18th Dec, 2005 at 3:11 PM

At a booksale of remaindered books, I picked up a copy of Sybil Kapoor's Taste: a new way to cook. This is a brilliant book that explores how different combinations of tastes excites our mouths.

We now know that there are five different receptors of taste: sour, salty, bitter, sweet, and umami. The last one may be unfamiliar because it's only been a recently recognised taste. Discovered by the Japanese, we have since borrowed the word to describe the taste of free glutamate. Even microscopic amounts of umami are discernable to taste.

Kapoor argues, quite correctly, that a balance of all five flavours makes things taste mind-blowingly good. So for lunch today, I decided to make a very strange pasta sauce. It turned out to be a splendid idea.

A balanced pasta dressing


  • 3 basil leaves
  • handful parmigiano reggiano
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • balsamic vinegar
  • black pepper


  1. Grate a handful of parmesan cheese into a pile of soft rubble. This is the umami component.
  2. Cut the basil into a fine chiffonade. Here, we will find some bitter and some fragrance. Dump it into the bottom of a small bowl.
  3. Next add a splash of extra virgin olive oil. It should be green and fruity and bitter.
  4. Follow this with a drizzle of balsamic vinegar, which will add both sour and sweet.
  5. Finally, grind in some fresh black pepper for a kick of spice. Combine everything together with a fork.
  6. Now cook some stuffed pasta until it's just done and drain it well. Toss the pasta into a wide bowl and shower it generously with the cheese which should melt softly and coat the pasta.
  7. Then drizzle the dressing on top and garnish.

Enrobes one generous plate of pasta.



( 5 comments — Leave a comment )
(Deleted comment)
19th Dec, 2005 05:05 (UTC)
Thanks for the link. I'll totally check them out.
19th Dec, 2005 01:06 (UTC)
This doesn't sound weird at all. Without the balsamic vinegar, it's essentially pesto. Without the basil it's essentially a vinaigrette. So it's two basics combined. Definitely sounds worth a taste though.
19th Dec, 2005 05:15 (UTC)
It is bizarre because it is barely a pesto and mostly a salad dressing. But for hot pasta!
19th Dec, 2005 04:42 (UTC)
i ignored the obscenely high price of cheese in seattle and made this for dinner tonight. it was fantastic.

i halved a bunch of grape tomatoes and threw them in as well, since wikipedia says tomatoes just add to the umami anyway.
19th Dec, 2005 05:16 (UTC)
The tomatoes sound like a wonderful idea. I'm glad you liked it!
( 5 comments — Leave a comment )