The five basic flavors – bitter, salty, sour, sweet and umami – are supposed to make our taste buds celebrate like it’s New Year’s Eve in Vegas when they are appropriately combined. The Five Tastes and How to Cook with Them provides a high-level overview of the five flavors. I find that concept more and more intriguing, and am thinking about the five flavors now when I create new recipes.
Why am I talking about this? I wanted to give it a try and had it in mind to make a kale salad with the (marvelous) nut butter and honey from our local farmers’ market. One of my favorite vendors, Just Pure Flavors, makes all kinds of great nut butters (like Bacon Jalapeño Cashew), and I’ve been itching to create a recipe that features these interesting flavors and smooth texture. So I looked up all kinds of variations of each of the five flavors to decide how to create my 5 Flavors Kale and Nut Butter Salad with Pineapple, Almonds and Tomatoes. It was fun picking the representatives for each of the five flavors (and a little nerve-wracking – would they work together?):
- Bitter: the kale
- Salty: the nut butter, some salt, the almonds
- Sour: the lemon juice
- Sweet: the honey, the pineapple, the tomatoes
- Umami: the fish sauce
Some say the sixth important flavor is…fat. I can go with that based on the pleasure of the unctuous feel of a fat-laden bite – think about the creaminess of avocado, or the velvety glide of a hollandaise, or the glorious silkiness of Alfredo sauce, or the guilty pleasure of the bronzed turkey skin with its undercoat of fat.
And beyond the 5 flavors, I know that a recipe like this needs some crunch, and some onions and garlic. Doesn’t everything need onions and garlic? For the crunch, because I thought this would be special dish, I chose Marcona almonds. They are Spanish almonds which are blanched and then roasted in olive oil and tossed with salt. You MUST try these almonds, even though they are on the pricey side. And in this salad, as an important part in the symphony of flavors … wow. The onion and garlic provided their own muted back-of-your-mouth bite, balancing the 5 flavors and the crunch of the almonds.
In addition to the grape tomatoes, which provide a lovely color contrast, I used pineapple for some of the sweetness because I had a fresh pineapple on hand, but I think that almost any fruit in season would work: strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, kiwi or star fruit, apple, pear, apricots, cherries, mango or papaya. OR – and this would make it a holiday-appropriate dish – you could use dried cranberries, cherries, golden raisins or even chopped prunes. This shouldn’t be a salad that is relegated to spring and summer meals, because it is a really refreshing side for a heavy soup, stew, or big ol’ grilled meats. Or that Thanksgiving turkey. I’ve just decided to put it on the Turkey and Gratitude Day menu this year.
The verdict for this recipe-in-the-mind transformed into a Glover Gardens kitchen reality? It turned out all right! I mean it was really, really good, so good that the vegetable and greens-averse Grill-Meister even liked it. I felt like I just won Chopped.
Ingredients (Serves 6)
1/2 tsp. fish sauce
- 1 tbsp. good-quality extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 tsp. local honey (from your farmers’ market!)
- juice of 1/2 lemon
- 1 tbsp. plus 1 tsp. nut butter (I use Just Pure Flavors’ Bacon Jalapeño Cashew Butter)
- 1 large clove garlic, finely minced
- 10 grape tomatoes, sliced
- 1/4 cup diced red onion
- 3/4 cup diced fresh or canned pineapple
- 1/2 cup Marcona almonds
- Generous pinch of salt
- Several grinds of fresh pepper
- 1 small bunch of kale, about 4 cups, chopped
Combine all ingredients except for the kale and stir until well mixed. Put the kale in a medium bowl, add the dressing, and mix. Transfer to a clean bowl and serve.
Note: Marcona almonds are expensive! So if you are not in the mood to splurge, use cashews, or toasted pecans, or even peanuts.
Copyright 2016, Glover Gardens Cookbook