Do you cook? If you do, then like me, you’ve undoubtedly made at least one dish that just didn’t turn out as predicted. Most of my flops occur when I’m creating a dish without the help of a recipe. But some recipes, even those praised by numerous individuals on the web, don’t measure up to my tastes.
Unless a dish is absolutely horrible — in which case it goes down the garbage disposal — I normally try to rescue it by use of one of my go-to ingredients.
My most recent recipe flop occurred this past weekend when I made a big pot of vegetarian black bean soup. I didn’t follow a recipe, but I’ve made bean soups of all varieties for years. In addition to the beans I added onions, carrots, celery, an assortment of herbs and spices, and a can of diced tomatoes. But despite my best efforts, it just didn’t have the depth of flavor I was looking for. It wasn’t awful; it just wasn’t particularly tasty. I scoured my pantry for a possible remedy and ended up adding about ¾ of a can of tomato paste, and a couple cans of water. Fantastic! That simple, relatively inexpensive ingredient made all the difference in the world. My soup suddenly tasted like something I really wanted to eat.
This is the first time tomato paste has ever rescued one of my efforts. When my marinara sauce needs a little something extra, a bit of sweetness, I’ll generally add a can of baby food mashed carrots to the pot. It thickens the sauce a bit and also adds that needed sweetness. Recently I added a can of pumpkin puree to a pot of chili and it seemed to serve the same purpose. I rarely add much, if any, salt to soups, stews, and sauces. But sometimes I find that just a pinch of salt will enhance the flavor. Alternatively, at times a pinch of sugar (or artificial sweetener) will do the same. If none of these work, a dash or two of Worcestershire Sauce seems to enhance the flavor of these dishes.
The photo at the top, taken at a local restaurant, represents one of the dishes I haven’t been able to figure out how to save. The dish is Mujaddara and is made of lentils and grains and various spices. While I haven’t tried making this exact lentil dish I’ve tried lentil soup and a baked lentil casserole. Neither turned out remotely flavorful. Despite adding a variety of ingredients the dishes weren’t tasty and were barely edible. So if you have a go-to lentil recipe I’d love to hear about it as well. In the meantime, I’ll get lentils at restaurants.
Do you have any favorite recipe rescue ingredients? Would you mind sharing?