How Nobu Transforms Scraps Into an Ultimate Umami Marinade

© Ethan Hill
By Justine Sterling Posted May 07, 2015

F&W editor in chief Dana Cowin is committed to reducing food waste with her #LoveUglyFood campaign, and legendary chef Nobu Matsuhisa is right there with her. Today, he came into the Food & Wine Test Kitchen to demo something amazing: his new universal umami marinade, which is made almost entirely of vegetable scraps.

F&W editor in chief Dana Cowin is committed to reducing food waste with her #LoveUglyFood campaign, and legendary chef Nobu Matsuhisa is right there with her. Today, he came into the Food & Wine Test Kitchen to demo something amazing: his new universal umami marinade, which is made almost entirely of vegetable scraps. This chunky, pickle-y, super-easy marinade gives anything from fish to tofu to lamb an incredible depth of umami flavor with no added oil or butter or fat of any sort. But the best news, of course, is that it cuts down on kitchen waste and is totally compostable after you’re done using it. Here, the recipe for Matsuhisa’s amazing marinade.

Nobu-Style Umami Marinade

1 large leek—split, washed and chopped
2 medium carrots, peeled and chopped
1 small yellow onion, chopped
1 celery rib, chopped
2 cups vegetable scraps, such as asparagus stems, herb stems, broccoli stems, scallions, onion trimmings, carrot peelings—whatever you have! Just stay away from soft or watery vegetables like daikon or tomato innards
3 tablespoons chopped ginger
One 4-by-5-inch piece of kombu, finely chopped
1 dried chile, chopped
2 large garlic cloves, chopped
Kosher salt (7 to 10 percent of the total weight of the mix)

In the bowl of a food processor, pulse all the ingredients except for the salt until fine. Season with the salt.

To use: Coat a fish fillet, chicken breast or whatever you are cooking entirely with the puree. Leave at room temperature for about 45 minutes. Cook without any added oil in the oven according to the protein’s needs.

Related: 19 Umami-Packed Recipes
33 Quick Chicken Recipes
9 Speedy Fish Recipes

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