Archive for January, 2010

Skip that bottle of MSG — add these ‘secret’ ingredients instead

Ever wonder why that big bowl of spaghetti drenched in marinara mushroom sauce tastes so darn good?

Well it’s not just because our bodies have a tendency to crave carbohydrates. It’s ’cause ingredients such as those used in that dish are high in glutamates, a chemical compound that naturally make our taste buds go into overdrive.

While you may not have heard much about glutamates before, you’ve probably heard about MSG.

And believe it or not, MSG has been around in some form for more than a thousand years. Of course, back in the Dark Ages it wasn’t sold in bottles such as Ac’cent, but came from natural ingredients.

MSG is short for monosodium glutamate, and it’s known for two things: Enhancing the flavor of foods; and controversy over its safety.

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How to caramelize onions

We usually think of onions as really pungent and something that should be eaten in limited amounts — if at all — because of their really strong nature. And, like garlic, your chances of getting a kiss after eating them decreases with each bite.

But it doesn’t have to be this way. Onions can actually transform into a soft, delicious ingredient that is almost as sweet as candy. We often call these “caramelized” onions, and all it takes to make them is a little heat and a lot of patience.

In a process that’s almost like making caramel, what we’re doing when we caramelize onions is break down their sugars via the heat. Not to get all geeky, but suffice to say that this process causes a chemical reaction in the onions starches (sugars) to make them really sweet and really tasty. Oh, and they turn a brown, caramel color.

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