YOU get to be the scientist in this edible experiment! Your research question: Does changing the texture of a food also change its flavor? Recruit a few volunteers (and make some tasty salsa) to help you find out.
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Set fine-mesh strainer over medium bowl. Pour tomatoes into fine‑mesh strainer. Use rubber spatula to stir and press on tomatoes to remove liquid. Let tomatoes drain in strainer for 5 minutes. Discard liquid.
Add drained tomatoes to mixture in food processor. Lock lid into place. Hold down pulse button for 1 second, then release. Repeat until evenly chopped, about three 1-second pulses. Remove lid and carefully remove processor blade (ask an adult for help). Add cilantro to processor and use rubber spatula stir to combine.
Use rubber spatula to scrape down sides of processor bowl. Replace processor blade (ask an adult for help). Lock lid back into place. Turn on processor and process for about 30 seconds. Stop processor, remove lid, and use rubber spatula to scrape down sides of bowl. Lock lid back into place, turn on processor, and process for another 30 seconds, or until salsa is very smooth.
Recruit some tasters. Explain that they are going to taste 2 different salsas. Their job is to think about the flavor and texture of each salsa. Do they taste the same? Different? Can tasters identify any of the ingredients?
Tell tasters to put on their blindfolds. Give each taster a spoonful of Sample A to eat. Tasters should chew slowly, thinking about the sample’s flavor and texture, but should keep their thoughts to themselves for now.
Give each taster a glass of water and have them take a sip. Then, give each taster a spoonful of Sample B to eat. Tasters should think about this sample’s flavor and texture, still keeping their thoughts to themselves. If tasters would like, give them more spoonfuls of each salsa to taste.
Put the 2 salsa samples out of tasters’ sight. Have tasters remove their blindfolds. Ask tasters:
Time for the big reveal! Show tasters the 2 bowls of salsa. Explain that both samples contained the exact same ingredients. The only difference? Their texture: Sample A was chunky and Sample B was smooth. Did tasters think Sample A and Sample B had the same flavor? Could they identify any ingredients in the salsas? Read on to learn more about how a food’s texture affects its flavor. (Feel free to snack on the rest of your salsa with some tortilla chips, too.)
When we talk about the flavor of food, we’re usually referring to a combination of its taste and its smell. But the way food feels in your mouth as you eat it—its texture—plays a big part in our eating experience.
Were your tasters able to identify the ingredients in the chunky salsa? How about in the smooth salsa? Did they think the two samples tasted similar or different? In the Young Chefs’ Club lab, tasters easily picked out the soft tomato and leafy cilantro in the chunky salsa—they recognized the distinctive flavors and textures of those two ingredients. The individual ingredients were harder for tasters to identify in the smooth salsa. Because the ingredients were processed into tiny pieces, everything had a similar texture. Plus, tasters were experiencing the flavors of lots of ingredients at once, rather than larger pieces of just one or two ingredients.
Certain foods have very distinctive textures, like spongy marshmallows, fizzy seltzer water, and crackly, crunchy Rice Krispies cereal. But what happens if you change the iconic texture of a food? Is it as easy to identify what you’re eating? Test it out on some unsuspecting family members and friends!
Place ½ cup Rice Krispies and ½ cup milk in blender. Place lid on top of blender and hold lid firmly in place with folded dish towel. Process until smooth, about 10 seconds.
Prepare 2 samples for each taster: In 1 small bowl, scoop about 2 tablespoons of the blended Rice Krispies–milk mixture. In second small bowl, combine about 1 tablespoon Rice Krispies and 1 tablespoon milk. (Make sure your tasters don’t see what you’re doing!)
Have tasters put on blindfolds. Give tasters the blended Rice Krispies–milk mixture and a spoon. As they eat, ask tasters to guess what they are eating—but keep their ideas to themselves for now! Repeat with samples of whole Rice Krispies and milk.
Have tasters remove their blindfolds. Ask what they thought about each sample—could they identify what they were eating? How would they describe the flavor and texture of each sample? Then, tell tasters exactly what they were eating!
When the Young Chefs’ Club tried this experiment, NONE of our tasters could guess what was in the blended Rice Krispies–milk mixture, but ALL of them could identify the whole Rice Krispies and milk. How about your tasters?