The Notorious MSG

MSG (alias monosodium glutamate; alias glutamate; alias glutamic acid) got a bad rap, see. It is innocent, I tell ya, innocent! It had a lousy lawyer, see. It was with its momma in Toledo.

Here are some the ways I use MSG in my kitchen:

Some natural sources of monosodium include tomato, seaweed, and shitake mushrooms. Fermented food sources include Worcestershire sauce, fish sauce, oyster sauce, parmesan cheese, nutritional yeast, and soy sauce. Here’s a list of more foods with natural MSG.

The reason these foods and condiments exist is because humans find the flavor irresistible. It is the essential component of savory and as we all know, the Japanese say it best with “Umami,” which, come on, it even sounds like “yummy.”

I use something in this picture in nearly ever dinner I make, sometimes several of them combined.

Probably the most intense of my MSG sources, is the Maggie Seasoning. If you’ve ever had Chinese soy sauce, this kinda what it tastes like. The Maggie, however, is VERY concentrated. Three dashes for your entire family’s meal is enough to boost flavor without overpowering the dish. It is not an everyday addition for us, but once in a while if I’m making something and I just can’t get the flavor deep enough, this is a lifesaver.

In case you are worried, there was bad science linking MSG to illness and racism that perpetuated those negative associations. If you’d like to do further reading, here is an article that debunks the myths of MSG. Most scientists have largely concluded that MSG is safe, although an allergic reaction is, of course, possible.

Secrets to a really great red gravy (spaghetti sauce).

Think it’s too hard to make your own spaghetti sauce? It isn’t. You are just a few ingredients away from a great, flavorful, mellow meat sauce. I made this one with sausage eggplant and green beans.

Here are the basics:

2 cans plain tomato sauce
1 cup of water or broth
1/2 onion chopped or grated
3-5 garlic cloves
1 lb of ground meat (turkey, sausage, beef)
2 tbls butter
1/4 cup freshly grated parmesan or the hard end of a parmesan wedge
Salt and pepper (or red pepper) to taste

In a large pot brown the meat in the pot over medium heat. Add the butter and cook the onions (after a few minutes add the garlic). Add any vegetables. Here I’ve added eggplant. I cut the eggplant a little too big here. Luckily, eggplant gets nice and soft as it cooks, so I was able to mush it against the bottom and the sides of the pot.

Add in the tomato sauce and water and let it simmer over low heat. Add the grated parmesan or a parmesan end (Be sure to fish out the wedge, which will get a little mudgy in the heat.)

Did you catch the secrets? Let the onions cook for a long time so they get sweet and melty. Butter (lots of it) mellows the acidity of the tomato. Parmesan (fresh from a block) in the sauce adds a metric ton of flavor and it is a great way to get rid of those ends that are a bit too hard to grate over pasta.

Sausage and blue cheese stuffed mushrooms.

or “What to do when you have a lot of little leftovers.”

This is just a little post because we’ve been overwhelmed with holiday BBQs. When we got home from a weekend full of meat-heavy meals, hubby said he just wanted something light. I took the opportunity to unload some leftovers. Here is what I used:

10 Mushroom caps
1 cup sweet Italian sausage crumbles
3/4 cup pizza sauce
1 pkg blue cheese crumbles
1/2 cup leftover wilted spinach
Fresh grated parmesan
Plain breadcrumbs

To make the mushrooms, I arranged the caps in a container and sprinkled them with salt. Then I mixed together the sausage, cheese, and spinach. I put heaping spoonfuls of the mixture into the mushrooms and topped them with parmesan and breadcrumbs. Into the oven they went at 350F for 25 minutes.

Super simple and a decent Sunday evening meal.

Stuffed mushrooms are great for getting rid of fridge ingredients. In this case, we had had a make-your-own pizza night earlier in the week. I had planned to make stuffed mushrooms for a party, but it turned out we didn’t need another side dish.