A few years ago, I had dinner with my friend Jenny. She is a vegetarian and is also a fabulous cook. She can even make tofu taste good! Whenever I go to visit, I usually come away with a wonderful recipe or two.
That evening, she made a simple black bean and brown rice dish, topped with roasted vegetables, sharp cheddar cheese and a splash of salsa. The first bite produced an OMG! moment, the kind that could jolt you off your chair if you weren’t sitting squarely. The flavor exploded over my entire mouth, including under my tongue. The taste lingered with a rich savory flavor and even sent a shiver down my spine. What was in this, I asked? I absolutely had to know. After all, wasn’t I just eating beans and rice, which of course can be delicious, but tend to be ho-hum?
Jenny went to her recipe box and pulled out the recipe for her magical sauce. It’s packed with ingredients that have the umami flavor. Umami is the fifth flavor – the others are salt, sweet, bitter and sour. In 2002, scientists discovered umami receptors on the tongue so then it became a recognized flavor. But the Japanese have known about umami for over 200 years. Umami adds the savory flavor; some call it the essence of deliciousness. The flavor is very intense and food goes from ordinary to extraordinary when the umami flavor is present.
This sauce takes only a few minutes to prepare and it keeps in the fridge for a couple of months. I store it in a recycled bourbon bottle. Bottles that once contained liquor are often quite beautiful and have tops that provide a good seal. I’ve always preferred glass over plastic for storing food.
½ cup nutritional yeast flakes
⅓ cup tamari
⅓ cup soy sauce
⅓ cup apple cider vinegar
2 tbsp tahini (sesame seed butter)
2 cloves garlic
1½ cups vegetable oil
⅓ cup water or more if it’s too thick
Put the first six ingredients in a blender. Blend until the garlic is pulverized. Add the oil, blend again. Pour into a bottle. That’s it!
I like to use grapeseed oil. The flavor is clean and neutral and is healthier than soy, canola, or corn oils. Both grapeseed oil and nutritional yeast are available at Three Boys in Condon.
Having a bottle of Jenny’s Sauce always on hand is like having an insurance policy in the fridge. You can always whip up something tasty to eat even if you are short of time or your fridge is somewhat empty. Jenny’s Sauce is good on pasta, rice, beans and vegetables. Add some cheese for a mouthwatering dinner, pronto.