The Sweet and Meaty Taste Science of Grilled Vegetables

The Sweet and Meaty Taste Science of Grilled Vegetables

The Sweet and Meaty Taste Science of Grilled Vegetables

“Let’s grill tonight” translates to “let’s eat meat tonight”

in many backyard BBQs. It’s not surprising since grilled meat products create hundreds of complex aroma and flavor compounds. Grilled vegetables create less of these craveable compounds but develop delicious flavor profiles that can make them popular with kids and adult “veg-avoiders.” Whether using wood, coal or gas heat sources for grilling meat products or vegetables, the flavor differences are determined by browning reactions that depend on carbohydrates and protein.

Vegetables and meats exposed to high heat in a dry environment develop unique flavors from non-enzymatic browning reactions known as the Maillard reaction and caramelization.

Caramelization relies on sugar for creating tasty molecules whereas, the Maillard reaction requires protein and a hint of sugar for flavor development.

grilled sweet potato

Flavorful Proteins

Vegetables meet two of these Maillard reaction requirements; however, the low protein content compared to meat products limits the flavor development. Meat, poultry and fish, when exposed to a high and dry heat, yield hundreds of complex Maillard aroma and flavor compounds ranging from savory and meaty to floral and earthy. Because meat products also include the simple sugar ribose, some caramelization flavors also may be detectable.

Flavorful Sugars

Caramelization is a browning process from heating sucrose or sugars such as fructose or glucose, also known as reducing sugars. Caramelization requires higher temperatures than Maillard reactions. Annette Hottenstein, Sensory Scientist and Registered Dietitian, explains that grilling typically exposes vegetables to higher heat than other cooking methods and at these high temperatures, new complex volatile flavor components become available as natural sugars caramelize.

Caramelization flavor compounds are less complex than those from Maillard reactions, but don’t disappoint with a flavor range that includes butterscotch, sherry, rum or toasty notes.

Vegetables with high levels of reducing sugars and protein such as corn, sweet potato, onions and eggplants create tasty flavors from both types of browning reactions.

Veg grilled Eggplant Michele Redmond

“Meaty” Grilled Vegetables

Like meats, some vegetables can develop a “meaty” taste element thanks to sulfur. Vegetables with an amino acid linked to sulfur such as cysteine create more savory elements or a meatiness. Cysteine is plentiful in cruciferous vegetables and alliums like onions.

Cysteine found in onions and combined with naturally high sugar content transform onions on the grill but also explain why caramelized onions are popular additions in many meals.

Grilled vegetables also offer pleasant contrasting textures. Hottenstein shared that she particularly enjoys the crispy tips of grilled asparagus and how the heat of the grill intensifies the green flavor components while adding a smoky dimension.

Veg grilled Asparagus

Vegetable Grilling Tips

Here’s some veggie grilling flavor techniques to make “let’s grill tonight” translates to “let’s cook delicious foods” where vegetables are hogging the grill grate.

  • Fresher is better: Some vegetables, like sweet corn, rapidly convert natural sugars to starch after harvest. Less natural sugars result in less flavor and sometimes a mealy texture
  • Par-cook: For dense or slow-cooking vegetables such as carrots or potatoes, partially pre-cook then grill or grill the surfaces for color and flavor, then finish cooking on the warming rack.
  • Coat or naked: Dry the surface of vegetables before coating lightly with oil or a marinade. Or instead grill them naked like whole eggplants or peppers for smoky, charred skin aroma compounds.
  • Veggie densityVegetables such as zucchini, eggplant, tomatoes that are less dense due to high water content grill quickly in general and even faster if sliced or quartered. It’s best to not mix them with dense vegetables, such as root vegetables, to ensure even grilling results.
grilled potato fingerlings | Tasteworkshop.com

About Me

The pleasure of food, good health and well-being through simple habits for eating well and flexitarian low-key cooking.
Michele Redmond

Michele Redmond

French-trained Chef, Registered Dietitian Nutritionist & Food Enjoyment Activist

It's about Making Food First

Get Taste Workshop periodic updates on easy ways to choose and cook foods that satisfy your appetite, nurture your body and make eating well a pleasure.

Corn, Tomato and Spinach Olive-Oil Galette

Corn, Tomato and Spinach Olive-Oil Galette

Corn, Tomato and Spinach Olive-Oil Galette

Olive-oil galette–Is it a tart? A pizza with a folded edge? A pie you eat for dinner?

Olive-oil Galette

It’s delicious no matter what you call it and, depending on your fillings, this olive-oil galette works for breakfast, lunch or dinner.

This quick, easy tart base can be made anytime with basic pantry ingredients since butter isn’t a primary ingredient. It works as a weekday meal but fits many occasions from picnics (simply eat slices by hand) to an elegant dinner with wine and real silverware.

Another advantage of adding an olive-oil galettes to your menu, other than sounding fancy French when you say “Galette” (a French word that actually sounds like it looks), is how easy it is to prepare for all eating styles from plant-only to eat everythingtarian.

 

Corn, Tomato and Spinach Olive-Oil Galette

Serves 12 as appetizer or 6-8 as a meal with a side

Crust Ingredients

 2 cups all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon salt
½ cup fresh-grated parmesan
½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
½ cup plus 1-2 tablespoons ice water

Optional: Add 2 teaspoons toasted fennel seed or 1½ teaspoon toasted cumin seed

Galette Filling
2 teaspoons olive oil
12 ounces grape tomatoes, cut in half (about 2 ½ cups whole)
2 ears corn kernels (about 1¼ cup or 1 can drained and dried)
3 large garlic cloves, minced fine
¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon fresh thyme, minced (or ½ teaspoon dried thyme)
¼ teaspoon salt
10 ounces (about 8 cups) spinach
Optional: ½ cup fresh peas, blanched in salted water
4 eggs, prepare one for egg wash
¾ cup ricotta
1 cup grated gruyere (2.25 ounces), divided

Crust Steps:

  1. Add flour, salt, parmesan and any spices to a food processor; pulse until blended. Pour in olive oil while pulsing to mix into flour, you may need to break up large clumps. Then slowly pour in ½ cup cold water. Dough will start to pull away from sides and clump together, but if not, add a bit more water up to 2 tablespoons. Dough should feel smooth, moist but not tacky. Remove from food processor.
  2. Knead dough for about 30 seconds then form into a ball. Press the ball of dough into a disk and wrap in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for 30 minutes or up to 2 days maximum or freeze for later use.

Filling and Tart Steps:

  1. Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat, add olive oil. When oil is warm, add halved tomatoes, corn, garlic, pepper flakes, thyme and salt. Cook 8-10 minutes to reduce liquid. Add spinach, use tongs to toss to evenly wilt it—about 2 minutes. Remove from heat, let cool.
  2. Preheat oven to 375˚ Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper or coat one with olive oil. Place dough a floured counter, press the disc to flatten enough to roll out with a rolling pin. Sprinkle some flour on the dough or rolling pin and roll from the center towards the edges to create a circular, but imperfect, shape about 15” wide and ¼ inch thick—look for an even thickness overall. Pick up an edge and lift it to over the pin (think curtain rod) to lift the dough and place flat on the baking sheet.
  3. Mix together 3 eggs, add ricotta and all but ½ cup of gruyere, add cooled cooked ingredients, mix.
  4. Pour mix onto the center of the dough, spread it within 2 inches of edge. Fold dough border up over the filling either in small square sections or pleated sections. Brush the dough with egg wash.
  5. Bake 30 minutes, then top with the remaining ½ cup gruyere. Bake another 10 minutes or until crust is golden brown and center feels firm. Let cool before serving.

Serving options:  Serve warm or at room temperature. Stores well for 3-4 days before crust begins to soften or break down.

Related Recipe: Here’s another recipe that could be a tart or pizza: https://thetasteworkshop.com/corn-and-cremini-chickpea-cauliflower-pizza/ 

About Me

The pleasure of food, good health and well-being through simple habits for eating well and flexitarian low-key cooking.
Michele Redmond

Michele Redmond

French-trained Chef, Registered Dietitian Nutritionist & Food Enjoyment Activist

It's about Making Food First

Get Taste Workshop periodic updates on easy ways to choose and cook foods that satisfy your appetite, nurture your body and make eating well a pleasure.

Easy homemade Honeycomb for a Flavorful Sweet Treat

Easy homemade Honeycomb for a Flavorful Sweet Treat

Easy homemade Honeycomb for a Flavorful Sweet Treat

Cinder Toffee from Royal Highlands Fair in Scotland

Cinder Toffee from Royal Highlands Fair in Scotland

I ate honeycomb for the first time at the Royal Highlands show in Scotland where it was called cinder toffee. I adopted a Scottish accent after the first bite.

I’d eaten honeycomb-covered chocolate bars in London, but fresh-made honeycomb had heady aromas of caramel, toffee, butter, smoky flavors and a hint of bitter. All of these qualities make it a perfect garnish for flavor-forward desserts.

Honeycomb is also known as hokey pokey (New Zealand and Australia) and tire-éponge (Quebec/France). This recipe was provided by a pastry chef who specializes in flavorful foods. Chef Country Velador of New Wave Market and Super Chunk Sweets & Treats shared her recipe scaled down for home-kitchen use.

Ingredients (Super Chunk Sweets & Treats Recipe)
1 tablespoon baking soda
½ cup water
⅓ cup honey
¼ cup corn syrup
1½ cup sugar

Steps

Honeycomb from Superchunk Sweets and Treats

Superchunk Sweets & Treats Restaurant Quantity

  1. Line baking sheet with a silpat and set aside. Measure out the baking soda and leave next to the sheet pan with a whisk.
  2. In a large saucepan (final mixture will foam up dramatically), combine the water, honey, and corn syrup. Stir to dissolve the honey and corn syrup as much as you can. Add the sugar and carefully stir in, being careful not to get sugar on the sides of the pan. Put on the stove over high heat.
  3. Bring the mixture to a boil and clip on a candy thermometer. Cook until the candy thermometer reads 305F.
  4. Take the pot next to the silpat and pour in the baking soda and quickly whisk it in. The honeycomb will puff up. Quickly pour it out onto the silpat, pouring all of the candy right in the center of the pan.
  5. Let cool completely before breaking up. Store in an airtight container.

Honeycomb goes a long way as a garnish for cakes or cupcakes icing, paired with chocolate, tucked in a yogurt, fruit parfait or sprinkled on ice cream or roasted bananas. Cook some up and play with it.

Eat within a few days or share with people to increase your popularity immensely. If it sits too long, it begins to absorb moisture from the air quickly and becomes sticky and soft. Don’t store in the fridge for the same reason, and wrap it in plastic wrap after it has completely dried to avoid exposure to moisture.

Honeycomb by Superchunk Sweets and Treats

About Me

The pleasure of food, good health and well-being through simple habits for eating well and flexitarian low-key cooking.
Michele Redmond

Michele Redmond

French-trained Chef, Registered Dietitian Nutritionist & Food Enjoyment Activist

It's about Making Food First

Get Taste Workshop periodic updates on easy ways to choose and cook foods that satisfy your appetite, nurture your body and make eating well a pleasure.

Salsa! Dance it or Eat it—Both Burn Calories

Salsa! Dance it or Eat it—Both Burn Calories

Salsa! Dance it or Eat it—Both Burn Calories

Dance it or eat it, but either way salsa boosts your mood, makes you hot and burns extra calories. Chile peppers in salsa contain chemicals that trigger heat sensations and cause your body to expend more energy–a metabolic effect called diet-induced thermogenesis (DIT). Embrace salsa as a quick condiment or ingredient to make sassier foods that give your body a metabolic boost for burning calories.

Making Salsa & How Chile Peppers for Burn Calories

Fermented salsa made from my garden serrano chile peppers

Popular in the United States as a dip, in many dishes it’s the sauce, no surprise since salsa is the Spanish word for sauce. It typically relies on savory, umami-rich tomatoes as the base, but fruits add fresh, sweet flavors that complement many dishes.

Salsa ingredients can be grilled, raw, pureed, diced or pounded out in a molcajete. The only rule to making salsa? You must include chile peppers–not spelled chili (a meaty dish).

Salsa “Burn”–Blame the Vein

Contrary to popular myth, the spicy heat from chili peppers caused by capsaicinoids, is not concentrated in the seeds, but primarily in the inner fibrous veins, or the ribs of the peppers. Chemicals in capsaicinoids, like capsaicin, induce thermogenesis causing your body to expend more energy.

Diet-induced thermogenesis occurs when specific compounds in foods (capsaicin in chile peppers) or beverages (such catechins in green tea), help the cells convert energy into heat which burns calories. Depending on the mix of nutrients, such as carbohydrates, fats and protein consumed at meals, diet-stimulated energy expenditure can range from 5-15% of total energy expenditures for the day.

Consider making salsa a weekly part of your menu by stocking up on:

Serrano Chile peppers and burning calories by diet-induced thermogenesis

Serrano chile peppers from my desert garden

 

  • Salsa base ingredients: Raw tomatoes, raw tomatillos or grilled, braised, roasted versions of either and canned fire-roasted tomatoes can be a nice option.
  • Chile peppers: Serranos are my favorite choice because of the size and fruity profile they have compared to jalapenos which tend towards grassier, bitter notes. Serranos have more capsaicin (3-4 times more) than jalapenos and both come in red and green but serranos also are available in orange and yellow. Gauge the amount of chile peppers by taste, but also check out the Scoville levels as a guide.
  • Aromatic or savory ingredients: Garlic, ginger, yellow onions, red onions, sweet onions, shallots, scallions, cilantro
  • Sweet ingredients: Corn, pineapple, watermelon, mangos, apples, peach, strawberries, cherries, etc.
  • Tangy ingredients: lime, grapefruit, lemon, vinegar, pickled veggies

Want to get some hot tips on handling chilies and creating fast, flavorful salsas? On my Facebook Live cooking show, I’ll demo how to make a quick canned salsa that doesn’t taste canned and a fruit salsa that is flexible for many different dishes.

Live Salsa Making on my Make Food First Cooking Show:

Facebook Live IconJoin us on Facebook Live May 23rd 1 pm PT or 4 pm ET

Where? @TheTasteWorkshop Facebook page

 


Want a beverage twist on chile peppers? Click here to get my cranberry citrus chili spritz in Food & Nutrition Magazine.

For more on how to spell Chile Peppers, Check out the Chile Pepper Institute N.W. University

For more info on Diet-Induced Thermogenesis: DIT & total energy expenditure estimates

About Me

The pleasure of food, good health and well-being through simple habits for eating well and flexitarian low-key cooking.
Michele Redmond

Michele Redmond

French-trained Chef, Registered Dietitian Nutritionist & Food Enjoyment Activist

It's about Making Food First

Get Taste Workshop periodic updates on easy ways to choose and cook foods that satisfy your appetite, nurture your body and make eating well a pleasure.

Corn and Cremini Chickpea Cauliflower “Pizza”

Corn and Cremini Chickpea Cauliflower “Pizza”

Corn and Cremini Chickpea Cauliflower “Pizza”

Cauliflower Chickpea-Flour “Pizza”

 

Cauliflower pizza corn mushroom pea

This recipe delivers a satisfying and meaty umami-ness from corn, sun-dried tomatoes and mushrooms, but is it pizza? Gluten, scorned by carbophobic eaters and necessarily restricted by a minority of others, is a key ingredient in pizza crusts. As a carb-lover who’s selective about carbs, it feels sad to restrict gluten-based foods unnecessarily, especially with comfort foods.

Corn cremini chickpea Cauliflower pizza

Pizza’s cultural heritage hinges on the dough. Real dough with flour, full of glutenin, gliadin and other flour proteins that yield textures and flavors inspiring a bread lexicon of “crumb”, “chew”, “caramel”, “honey”, “nutty”. No cauliflower crust “pizza” will deserve such praise; it’s just not possible.

However, I accepted a challenge to prove that cauliflower crusts could yield some pizza-worthy structure (you can pick a slice up without it breaking apart since eating “pizza” with a fork feels a bit French.

Unfortunately, most cauliflower “pizza” recipes result in crumbly crusts or rely on a cheese binder. This version uses nutrient-rich chickpea flour for structure and to balance strong cauliflower flavors. Some cooking tricks create a crust that browns nicely and maintains structure.

Corn cremini chickpea Cauliflower pizza 1900 | TheTasteWorkshop.com

After much testing, and squeezing and more squeezing—really you must get the liquids out of the cauliflower—I’m happy.

I served a cauliflower crust or cauliflower tart to my pizza-loving husband purposely avoiding the description “pizza”. He took a few bites with head-nodding approval and said:

“this is great pizza”.

I gave up. Here’s my recipe for cauliflower “pizza”.

Topping Ingredients:

1 tablespoon olive oil
8 ounces cremini mushrooms, sliced ½ inch
½ cup (about 6 ounces) sweet corn kernels (if using canned, drain well)
¼ teaspoon salt
¾ cup grated smoked mozzarella
2 tablespoons sun-dried tomatoes, diced
Optional seasonal garnish: 3-4 tablespoons fresh English peas, blanched
Optional Garnishes: red onion sliced fine, fresh thyme

Tart Ingredients:
1 medium to large whole cauliflower head, trimmed of leaves (for frozen florets, see below)
¾ cup chickpea flour
½ teaspoon sea salt
⅛ teaspoon cayenne
½ teaspoon turmeric powder
¼ teaspoon cumin powder
2 large eggs

Steps:

  1. To a mixing bowl, add chickpea flour, salt and spices and mix together. Rinse, dry and slice mushrooms and prepare corn kernels, mozzarella, sun-dried tomatoes and any optional garnishes. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or oil surface well.
  2. In a large skillet over medium-heat, add olive oil. When hot, add mushrooms slices single layer (maximizes flavor and texture). Cook undisturbed, until browning is visible, then toss and cook for even browning. When evenly cooked and nicely browned, remove from pan.
  3. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 425°F and place oven racks at the lowest and highest levels. Cut the cauliflower in half, then chop into 2-3 inch pieces including the stem. Add to food processor (2 batches may be required) and pulse to a powdery texture (finer than “rice” granules). If you lack a food processer, grate by hand using the fine grate section. Transfer to a microwave-safe bowl.
  4. Microwave on high for 5 minutes or until soft and moist. Place a tea towel across a mixing bowl and pour the mash onto the center. When cooled, pull towel edges together to form a sac around the mash. Squeeze from the top and sides to remove liquid (about 1 cup) leaving about 1 cup of mash.
  5. Add mash and eggs to flour mixture and stir until well combined. Spread onto parchment paper and flatten to about ¼ inch. You can also create a border by pinching or rolling the edge inward.
  6. Bake 10-14 minutes on lowest rack or until cooked firm and crust is browned sheet side. Remove from oven, add toppings (cheese on top—cover sun-dried tomatoes or they burn), place sheet on top rack for 4-6 minutes, then turn oven to broil and move to top rack to melt cheese and brown any exposed crust area. Place “pizza” on baking rack to cool.

Preparation Notes: If using frozen cauliflower, 24 ounces is about 1 cup cooked. Defrost cauliflower per package instructions and blend in food processor. Mash will be much wetter than fresh mash.

 

About Me

The pleasure of food, good health and well-being through simple habits for eating well and flexitarian low-key cooking.
Michele Redmond

Michele Redmond

French-trained Chef, Registered Dietitian Nutritionist & Food Enjoyment Activist

It's about Making Food First

Get Taste Workshop periodic updates on easy ways to choose and cook foods that satisfy your appetite, nurture your body and make eating well a pleasure.

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