Do you ever taste something you cooked and think, Wow, I wish this was about 15% better, but then do absolutely nothing about it? Me too. As a professional cook, just because I know many paths toward creating flavor, it doesn’t mean I have the time to wander down all of them at 7 p.m. on a Wednesday night.
So when I had the chance to develop a product with Burlap & Barrel, a spice company known for impeccable ingredient sourcing, I had a good idea of what I wanted to accomplish: a blend that could make pretty much any savory dish taste better. Chicken cutlets? Yes. Vegetable soup? Yes. Weeknight pasta? Yes. I wanted it to work in tandem with endless meals, to bring a little more depth and complexity, particularly when time is of the essence.
Enter The Umami Blend, a balanced rich and savory mix of spices and seasonings that crank up flavor a click or three. I got a sample of every ingredient that Burlap & Barrel carries with natural umami potential and got to work blending onion and garlic powders (never underestimate either); black mineral salt (with funky, sulfury undertones); tomato powder (a BA staff favorite); hing (a.k.a. asafoetida, invaluable in Indian cooking); and smoked paprika, silk chile flakes, and black pepper (for subtle toasty heat).
Think of it like MSG: a complement to, but not a replacement for, salt and other seasonings. Which means you can add it to just about any recipe and rest assured that the recipe will improve. The Umami Blend is only salty in an offhand way, using just enough salinity to bring out the inherent flavors of the other ingredients it contains.
If you are anything like me, you recognize that cooking can be a series of trade-offs. I don’t always have the time to chop that extra onion or feel so mentally equipped that I always have herbs stocked in my kitchen. I hate having to store a half-empty tin of anchovies, and don’t even get me started on canned tomato paste (the tubes are where it’s at, but even then, store them cap side up so they don’t ooze sticky sap all over your fridge). Point being? Having a versatile umami-boosting blend on hand can often save the day.
I sprinkle it over vegetables pre-roast and blend it into creamy dressings like this tahini ranch. It can work as a meat rub, even if all you do is shake some over a store-bought turkey patty before searing it. Try it as a flavor enhancer when you want complexity but don’t have the time, like a fast picadillo or ribollita. Honestly, I would put it on just about anything and have found no finer moment than lashing it across buttery popcorn.
So while the Umami Blend can’t make dinner for you, it can improve whatever you cook. By at least 15%.