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When asked to identify the four tastes of food, most everyone answers sweet, salty, sour and bitter. In 1908, though, a Japanese chemist identified a fifth taste โ€“ umami, or deliciousness.

He was able to isolate the chemical responsible for this taste and went on to establish a company to produce MSG (monosodium glutamate). During World War II, the U.S. military added MSG to soldiers' rations to make them more palatable.

Now most prepared foods contain some form of glutamate. That's the reason you "can't eat just one."

However, umami occurs naturally in many foods. The recipe that follows contains two of these umami-rich foods: mushrooms and Parmesan cheese.

Stuffed mushrooms could be considered an umami whammy.

To begin, assemble and prepare the following ingredients:

16 large white mushrooms

6 tablespoons butter, divided

4 scallions, finely chopped (including the green part)

1 large clove garlic, finely chopped

1 teaspoon thyme (fresh or dried)

1 tablespoon finely chopped parsley

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese

1 cup plain bread crumbs

A little water

First, rinse and dry the mushrooms with a paper towel. With a paring knife, cut around the stem and remove it to form a cavity in the mushroom. Finely chop these stems and set them aside.

In a 10-inch skillet, melt 4 tablespoons of butter. When the butter is hot, add the scallions and garlic and cook over medium heat for about two minutes. Then add the chopped mushroom stems and continue cooking until the mushrooms are soft, about five minutes.

Turn off the heat and stir in the thyme, parsley, salt, Parmesan cheese and bread crumbs. If the mixture seems dry, add about 1/4 cup of water.

Fill each mushroom cap with the stuffing mixture, mounding it on the top. Place the stuffed mushrooms in a buttered baking pan. Dot each mushroom with the remaining two tablespoons of butter.

Bake at 350 degrees for about 35 minutes or until the mushrooms can be pierced easily with a knife and the stuffing is browned.

Serve warm โ€” or if preparing them ahead of time, reheat before serving.

โ€” Julie Falsetti, a York native, comes from a long line of good cooks. Her column, From Scratch, runs twice monthly in The York Dispatch food section.

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