Tomato, basil and cheese… the very best combination!
Caprese salad is fresh, colourful and delicious! Many foodies would be familiar with the concept of umami – Umami is the fifth taste – there is sweet, sour, salt, bitter and umami. Umami is that savoury, rich, meaty, satisfying, mouth-watering taste that you can’t quite put your finger on. It’s what makes miso soup surprisingly satisfying. It’s why soy sauce adds so much flavour to rice. It’s why mushrooms are meat for vegetarians. And it’s why pizza is so amazing (or one of the reasons, anyway).
I am no chemist, but my understanding is that the umami taste is a response to an amino acid called glutamate, which is abundant in foods like tomato, cheese, soy sauce, seaweed and miso, as well as most meat.
We have all heard of MSG. MSG is a salt which has the same chemical structure as glutamate. Ignoring the side-effects that MSG has for some people, the reason that adding MSG to food makes it so good is the umami.
You get that same effect when you eat naturally umami-rich foods. Ever wondered why the world is so bacon-crazy? Why a few drops of Worcestershire sauce turn a humble shepherd’s pie into a mouth-watering meal? How adding a single anchovy can transform a spaghetti bolognaise? Why some people can eat tomato sauce by the spoon? You guessed it!
Incidentally, I think it is really interesting that breast milk is also very high in umami. It stands to reason that the enjoyment of umami as an adult is linked to one of our most basic instincts, the very first food we ate, and probably the first comfort we ever received.
Umami is enhanced when glutamate-rich foods are combined. The classic combination, and the one that I enjoy most often, is cheese and tomato. This is at least part of the reason that pizza, lasagne and chicken parmigiana are so great, why bruschetta or spaghetti bolognaise is so much better topped with parmesan cheese.
And, this is why caprese salad is just so delicious!
This is my version of caprese salad, which I served alongside grilled salmon and a little wasabi.