What’s Cooking in Kelli’s Kitchen

  • 2022-04-17, 05:00 AM
  • Kelli Kelly
What’s Cooking in Kelli’s Kitchen Kelli Kelly

Did you know that there is a name for the phenomenon whereby tastes and smells will bring back memories–it’s called a “Proustian Moment,” named after French writer Marcel Proust. In his book, “In Search of Lost Time,” he describes how the taste of a madeleine cookie dipped in tea took him back to his childhood. There’s a scientific reason for this too, one that is rooted in human survival, called conditioned taste aversion. In a 2018 study, psychologist Kathleen C. Chambers wrote that "Conditioned taste aversion is a learned association between the taste of a particular food and illness such that the food is considered to be the cause of the illness."  The theory is that early hunter-gatherer types would associate feeling unwell with a particular plant that they ate and thus would avoid eating that plant moving forward. In a study in 2014, it was discovered that there was a direct link between the areas of the brain responsible for interpreting smell and encoding the memory of when that smell was first experienced.

I have long maintained that the association of smells and tastes with significant positive memories is why so many people rave about coffee from Jamaica and Hawaii. For many, the smell of a freshly brewed cup of Kona or Blue Mountain coffee evokes memories of luxurious beachside retreats and epic vacations. I am not a fan–but I have never visited either region. But the best burger I ever ate was served to me at the White Horse Tavern on the island of Bermuda. It was the first solid food I had eaten after over 48 hours of the most harrowing sailing adventure I have ever experienced. Was the burger even that great? Or was I just happy to be alive and on solid ground?

Thoughts of meals past and the events surrounding their consumption were at the top of my mind this week when Neil asked for a “burger” made out of a portobello mushroom. I immediately jumped back to a moment in 1998 when I tasted my first blackened mushroom tofu burger at Taco Loco in Laguna Beach, California. Taco Loco is a super-hip hangout in a consummate beach community, one that errs on the side of hippies and artists, not beach babes and surfers.  While they have a variety of animal proteins on the menu, Taco Loco was one of the first places I remember offering a solid vegan line-up of options. But I didn’t order my sandwich because I was a vegan, I ordered it because it was known to be the best thing on the menu.

This week, I embraced the challenge of recreating one of my favorite lunchtime treats from the 90s, and what a success it was. I anticipate it will be a part of our new low-fat dinner rotation. I hope you give it a try, even if you too are not vegan.

 

BLACKENED MUSHROOM TOFU BURGER

 

INGREDIENTS

Portobello mushroom caps - as many as the number of people you are serving

Firm Tofu - you will need two ¼” slices per serving (about 4 oz per person)

Blackening Seasoning (see spices from the swordfish recipe in the last week of March)

¼ c low sodium soy sauce

Ciabatta Rolls (or buns of your choosing)

1 avocado - diced

1 c pico de gallo (homemade or store-bought)

Dijon mustard

Mayo

 

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Drain the tofu block. Place on a plate and top with another plate & weight (canned product from your pantry). Let sit for at least an hour to squeeze out excess water.
  2. Slice tofu into ¼” slices and soak in low-sodium soy sauce for at least an hour, flipping halfway through then drain. Generously season tofu with blackening spice mix.
  3. Preheat pellet smoker or grill to 300. Smoke portobello mushroom caps and tofu for around 30 minutes, flipping regularly.  As the mushrooms soften, season lightly with the blackening spice mix.
  4. Meanwhile, combine diced avocado and pico de gallo, and season to taste with lime juice, salt, and pepper.
  5. To assemble: lightly toast ciabatta roll or bun, spread mayo and mustard evenly over bread, scoop on some of the avocado mixture, top with 2 slices of blackened tofu and a portobello mushroom cap.

    What’s Cooking in Kelli’s Kitchen

     

    Did you know that there is a name for the phenomenon whereby tastes and smells will bring back memories–it’s called a “Proustian Moment,” named after French writer Marcel Proust. In his book, “In Search of Lost Time,” he describes how the taste of a madeleine cookie dipped in tea took him back to his childhood. There’s a scientific reason for this too, one that is rooted in human survival, called conditioned taste aversion. In a 2018 study, psychologist Kathleen C. Chambers wrote that "Conditioned taste aversion is a learned association between the taste of a particular food and illness such that the food is considered to be the cause of the illness."  The theory is that early hunter-gatherer types would associate feeling unwell with a particular plant that they ate and thus would avoid eating that plant moving forward. In a study in 2014, it was discovered that there was a direct link between the areas of the brain responsible for interpreting smell and encoding the memory of when that smell was first experienced.

    I have long maintained that the association of smells and tastes with significant positive memories is why so many people rave about coffee from Jamaica and Hawaii. For many, the smell of a freshly brewed cup of Kona or Blue Mountain coffee evokes memories of luxurious beachside retreats and epic vacations. I am not a fan–but I have never visited either region. But the best burger I ever ate was served to me at the White Horse Tavern on the island of Bermuda. It was the first solid food I had eaten after over 48 hours of the most harrowing sailing adventure I have ever experienced. Was the burger even that great? Or was I just happy to be alive and on solid ground?

    Thoughts of meals past and the events surrounding their consumption were at the top of my mind this week when Neil asked for a “burger” made out of a portobello mushroom. I immediately jumped back to a moment in 1998 when I tasted my first blackened mushroom tofu burger at Taco Loco in Laguna Beach, California. Taco Loco is a super-hip hangout in a consummate beach community, one that errs on the side of hippies and artists, not beach babes and surfers.  While they have a variety of animal proteins on the menu, Taco Loco was one of the first places I remember offering a solid vegan line-up of options. But I didn’t order my sandwich because I was a vegan, I ordered it because it was known to be the best thing on the menu.

    This week, I embraced the challenge of recreating one of my favorite lunchtime treats from the 90s, and what a success it was. I anticipate it will be a part of our new low-fat dinner rotation. I hope you give it a try, even if you too are not vegan.

     

    BLACKENED MUSHROOM TOFU BURGER

     

    INGREDIENTS

    Portobello mushroom caps - as many as the number of people you are serving

    Firm Tofu - you will need two ¼” slices per serving (about 4 oz per person)

    Blackening Seasoning (see spices from the swordfish recipe in the last week of March)

    ¼ c low sodium soy sauce

    Ciabatta Rolls (or buns of your choosing)

    1 avocado - diced

    1 c pico de gallo (homemade or store-bought)

    Dijon mustard

    Mayo

     

    DIRECTIONS:

  6. Drain the tofu block. Place on a plate and top with another plate & weight (canned product from your pantry). Let sit for at least an hour to squeeze out excess water.
  7. Slice tofu into ¼” slices and soak in low-sodium soy sauce for at least an hour, flipping halfway through then drain. Generously season tofu with blackening spice mix.
  8. Preheat pellet smoker or grill to 300. Smoke portobello mushroom caps and tofu for around 30 minutes, flipping regularly.  As the mushrooms soften, season lightly with the blackening spice mix.
  9. Meanwhile, combine diced avocado and pico de gallo, and season to taste with lime juice, salt, and pepper.
  10. To assemble: lightly toast ciabatta roll or bun, spread mayo and mustard evenly over bread, scoop on some of the avocado mixture, top with 2 slices of blackened tofu and a portobello mushroom cap.

 

Kelli Kelly

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