"Perhaps the most impressive of all the cookbook blogs are the three devoted to the 2004 edition of Gourmet magazine's "The Gourmet Cookbook" -- all 5¼ pounds and 1,300-odd recipes of it. Befitting this culinary Everest, all three writers are overachievers in their professional lives."

--Lee Gomes, The Wall Street Journal, May 28, 2008
"I should have told you before how much I've been enjoying reading your thoughts. You seem like such a great cook."

--Ruth Reichl, Editor-in-Chief of Gourmet Magazine, June 8 2008, comment on "Chocolate Velvet Ice Cream".

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Tomato, Cucumber and Pineapple Salad with Asian Dressing from Gourmet Today, and ALSO! Melissa is a SUPERTASTER!

You don't get a lot of call (at least in my experience) for salad involving fruit that also involves fish sauce. That could possibly be because I've never been to Southeast Asia, where fish sauce--or Nam Pla--is used as a condiment for anything from curries to casseroles.

Here's some fish sauce:

Don't ask me what the shrimp and the chef are doing here--it looks a little fishy to me:

According to wikipedia, fish sauce is made by layering single or multiple species of fish/shellfish with salt, and pressing for liquid. Some countries have longer or shorter fermenting times for the sauce, others add herbs and spices. Thai fish sauce (which is what I happen to have in my kitchen) is made exclusively from anchovies and salt.

So how does this figure into Tomato, Cucumber and Pineapple Salad? Fish sauce is in the dressing, which also contains garlic paste, lime juice, sugar, vegetable oil and serrano chili. Toss with tomatoes, cucumbers, pineapple, fresh mint and fresh cilantro, and you have an unusual and delicious salad.

I brought this to a family gathering, and everybody loved it. I did too, but I still just couldn't help noticing that it smelled like fish, which just seemed weird to me. It didn't taste like fish, it smelled like it. Did I feel like I was in a very sophisticated cafe somewhere in Vietnam, as the notes for the recipe predicted? Nope. I felt like I was at my mother's birthday party at my sister's house in Bradford, MA. But it was interesting to make and eat anyway.


So, what's this Supertaster business, you ask?

1. Confirmation that if I were ever a superhero, my powers would involve food, as I have ALWAYS SUSPECTED

2. A name bestowed upon people with lots and lots of fungiform papillae on their tongues (that's taste buds to you lesser mortals)

How did I find this out? My sister's young neighbor Lily is doing a science fair project and dyed our tongues blue during the birthday party so she could gather data. Then, using her doctor daddy's high-powered magnifying specs

she counted how many taste buds we had inside an area the size of a hole-punch. She did not punch holes in our tongues, however.

The lowest count was 17, average was in the low 20's, supertasters (like me, my dad and my niece Savannah) had 30.

Unfortunately, my dad and I blow Lily's theory that supertasters = picky eaters. Savannah certainly qualifies, but my dad and I are adventuresome eaters, always have been. Supertasters are supposed to be especially sensitive to spicy heat and bitterness, however, and I will admit that broccoli rabe (my husband's all-time favorite vegetable) is dead last on the list of vegetables I'd like to eat.

As for what biological purpose supertasters might serve, it's speculated that it's an advanced foraging skill, as in if something is bitter it's probably not good to eat and might even be poisonous. So if the end of the world comes and you can't get Apocalypse Alec to show you what to eat, we can browse around in the woods for dinner and I'll keep you from poisoning yourself.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Love your humor Melissa.

The logo on that bottle of fish sauce *is* weird!

-- Georgia