Tomato Paste to the Rescue?

IMG_0198Do 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?

LinnieGayl

Tags: , ,

10 Responses to “Tomato Paste to the Rescue?”

  1. Leigh says:

    Hmmmmmmm, no. But I do have dogs that usually will eat my disasters.
    I don’t cook a lot but brunch can consist of a cheese omelet. Many times I have become distracted and browned it more than I like so Lyla, Lucas and Lola get a treat.

  2. trace says:

    Vinegar & sugar in equal amounts. Adds to the flavor of the dish!

  3. Victoria S says:

    LinnieGayle, for the Black Bean Soup try a can of corn. The small can of Green Giant Mexicali corn, or the Goya crisp white corn. I love Black Beans, and the soup, but never eat ‘em without adding a can of corn.
    Adobo seasoning can pretty much be added to anything, and my go to spice is garlic..fresh or granulated or McCormick’s Salt-free Garlic and Herb. My favorite beans are Large Limas. Not being a vegetarian, I cook up some Smoked Turkey, take the bines out, and then finish cooking the beans in the liquid and meat from the smoked turkey. Mmmm Mmmm good.
    Sorry, gotta go, it’s cold here and this post just gave me a taste for Black Bean Soup.

  4. Victoria S says:

    …take the bones out not bines. Sorry

  5. Leigh, LOL re your dogs eating your disasters. My cat Princess won’t touch things like that.

    Trace, love that suggestion! Vinegar & sugar in equal amounts. That’s something I’m going to remember.

    Victoria. I’ve never tried adding corn to black bean soup. I’ll bet that does make it better. I’ll look for the kinds you suggested. Adobo seasoning is something I’ve never stocked. I’ll have to look it up.

    Thank you!

  6. Rosario says:

    LinnieGayl, I eat loads of lentils, and this is my favourite recipe:

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/2009/feb/07/vegetarian-recipe-spiced-lentils-yogurt

    I’ve made it several times and it’s always turned out delicious, really flavourful. In general, a base of onion, ginger, garlic and chilli made into a paste, with a bit of ground cumin and coriander added on after it’s cooked for a while, is a good start for a lentil dish.

    Another, more European one that I like is from a Jamie Oliver recipe. Finely chop 2 carrots, 2 sticks of celery and 2 onions and cook in a casserole-type pan with a bit of olive oil (Jamie says duck fat, but I never could find any) for about 10 mins on medium heat. Add 500g of Puy lentils, 1 litre veg stock, 1 potato chopped into small pieces and a bouquet garni (it’s tempting to skip this, but it gives the whole thing an amazing aroma). Cook for about 45 mins until the lentils are soft and there’s very little liquid left. Chop about 200g baby spinach leaves and mix in, and squash the potato chunks against the side of the pan to make it all really creamy. Add salt and pepper to taste, a bit of olive oil and a couple of tablespoons of red wine vinegar.

  7. Rosario says:

    PS – Forgot to state the obvious and say to take out the bouquet garni before you start squashing the potato against the sides!

  8. Thanks so much, Rosario! I’ve saved those recipes to my hard drive.

  9. Way cool! Some extremely valid points! I appreciate you penning this post and also the rest of the site is extremely good.

  10. download says:

    download …

    [...]Tomato Paste to the Rescue? « AAR After Hours[...]…