The Elements of Taste

The Elements of Taste

by Gray Kunz, Peter Kaminsky

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Gray Kunz has teamed up with food writer Peter Kaminsky to put together a cookbook that looks precisely at what taste is. They have identified 14 basic tastes in the chef's palate and offer recipes showing how to use these fundamental building blocks.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780316055499
Publisher: Little, Brown and Company
Publication date: 12/14/2008
Sold by: Hachette Digital, Inc.
Format: NOOK Book
File size: 5 MB

About the Author

Peter Kaminsky is the author of numerous books, including The Moon Pulled Up an Acre of Bass, Pig Perfect, and The Elements of Taste. He was formerly New York magazine's "Underground Gourmet," and his Outdoors column runs regularly in the New York Times. His work has appeared frequently in Food & Wine and Field & Stream, and he was managing editor of National Lampoon. He lives in Brooklyn.

Table of Contents

The Fourteen Elements of Taste
Tastes That Push
Tastes That Pull
Spiced Aromatic90
Floral Herbal102
Tastes That Punctuate
Taste Platforms
The Elements of Cuisine
The Chef's Larder
Spice Mixes199
A Chef's Note247



Here we have truffles, wine, cream -- all things that often are served with pasta. We lightened it with a medley of fall vegetables anchored by spaghetti squash. At least that is what our method looks like in retrospect. Actually we opened the refrigerator at the Kunz apartment and most of the ingredients were there already (okay, we admit it, chefs sometimes have truffles lying around). It was a cold nasty day when neither of us wanted to go marketing, so we cooked with what we had.

2 spaghetti squash, halved
3 tablespoons butter
Kosher salt
Freshly ground white pepper
1 shallot, finely diced
1/4 cup julienne of celery root
1-1/2 ounces black truffles, chopped (optional)
1/4 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup julienned butternut squash
1/4 cup dry white wine
1 cup chopped parsley

Preheat the oven to 375° F. Place the spaghetti squash, split side up, in a roasting pan. Dot the squash with half the butter, season with salt and pepper, then roast until a forkful of squash separates like strands of pasta, about 40 minutes. Remove the squash from the oven and spoon out the "spaghetti." Set aside.

Melt the remaining butter in a high-sided skillet over medium-high heat. Add the shallots and celery root and cook until they just begin to soften, about 1 minute, then add the truffles. Cook for about 1 minute more, then add the cream, spaghetti squash, julienne of butternut squash, and wine. Bring the mixture to a boil, adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper, then serve garnished with parsley.

Our Taste Notes
The shallot opens the bouquet then the floral herbal parsley moves the taste toward the garden crunch of the squash and celery root. By contrast, the cream seeks out the wintry earthiness in the celery root and funkiness in the truffle. The squash has garden vegetable taste, and background sweetness. The cream also picks up picante and spiced aromatic tones. The last notes are roundness from the cream and truffle perfume.

Serves 6

This is a prime example of what we call a "Chef's Dessert." Most desserts start with the idea of something sweet and just keep building on sweetness. Thus, soufflés -- which can be wonderful and light -- often are just a mound of overpowering sweetness. Here, the idea that started the dessert was tanginess and then using only enough sugar to balance it. The trial and error that went on between chef and pastry chef required Chris Broberg, the pastry chef at Lespinasse, to run up the three stories to the chef's office about a hundred times before the dessert was just right. But pastry chefs can always use a little exercise to stay trim.

1 tangerine
1 lime
1 lemon
1 passion fruit
Approx. 2 cups sugar (don't worry, you bake the filled fruit on top of mounds of sugar, you don't include this all in the recipe)

Preheat the oven to 475° F. Slice about 1/2 inch from the top of the tangerine, then cut the lemon, lime and passion fruit in half. Scoop out the flesh of each fruit, taking care not to rip the citrus sieve and set the rinds aside. Press the fruit through the sieve, then sweeten the juice to taste (the juice should still be sour but have some sweetness to it).

Divide the sugar between six forms of a cupcake tin (each cup should be about one quarter full). Place a reserved rind in each sugar-filled cup. Spoon a tablespoon of sweetened citrus juice into each and set aside.

Soufflé Batter
4 egg whites
2 egg yolks
4 tablespoons sugar

Put the egg whites and yolks in separate bowls. Put half the sugar in each bowl. Whisk the yolks until the thicken and have a satiny sheen. Whisk or beat the egg whites until they are firm enough to pull up into peaks but not so stiff that they stand up and remain that way. Fold half the egg whites into the yolks. When they are fully combined, fold in the rest. Spoon the soufflé batter into the fruit rinds. Place the soufflés in the lower third of the oven and bake until they rise and brown, 6-7 minutes. Serve immediately.

Our Taste Notes
The fluffiness of the soufflé is matched by the sugary sweet aroma of the first bite. The very tangy and lightly sweet fruit juice in the bottom of the rind comes as a surprise. The floral note in the fruit juice further pulls up the round and creamy sweetness of the soufflé.

Serves 4

This is a quickie cobbler. Serve with vanilla ice cream and maybe a little Calvados in the deglazing. Toasted oats have a unique nuttiness among starches. They crust up well to balance the soft apples and would work well for sliced pears and peaches or a new twist on French toast. Yes, this is basically the kind of quick cooking recipe you see on the side of a cereal box., but we tried it and liked it and the kids finished everything.

1 egg plus 1 yolk, whisked together
1/4 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
2/3 cup steel-cut oats (flakes)
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
5 teaspoons sugar
2 Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored, and sliced in 1/2-inch wedges
2 tablespoons grapeseed or other neutral vegetable oil
Juice of 1 lemon
1/4 cup apple cider
2 tablespoons Calvados
2 tablespoons butter

Combine the egg and flour. Whisk until smooth, then whisk in 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Set the binding aside. Mix the oats, cinnamon, and 1 teaspoon sugar together in a bowl. Brush one side of each of the apple wedges with the binding, then dip the side in the oat mixture.

Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the apples, crust side down, and cook until the oatmeal is well-toasted. Turn the apples over and continue to cook until the apples are tender, about 4 minutes in all.

Arrange the apples (like a tarte tatin), crust side up, on a serving plate. Add the remaining sugar to the skillet and allow it to melt and slightly carmelize. Deglaze with a mixture of lemon juice, apple cider, and Calvados. Finish the sauce by swirling in the butter, then pour it over the apples and serve.

Our Taste Notes
The nuttiness of the oats and the spicy aroma of the cinnamon gently pull the sugar forward. The roundness of the butter is cut but the lemon tang and the Calvados.

Copyright © 2001 by Gray Kunz & Peter Kaminsky.

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