- The flavor is in the center
- Natural pectin binds liquids
- Flavor is fleeting
- Add flavor with sugar and salt, acidity and alcohol
Tomatoes turn up in recipes from all corners of the world. They add flavor, body and attractive colors to salads. And tomatoes that are cooked slowly and for a long time are irresistible in stews, soups and sauces.
The flavor is in the center
With many vegetables the flavor is in the skin, but in a tomato most of the umami is in the juicy center.
Pectin binds liquid
The seed casing inside a tomato also contains pectin that helps to bind liquid, adding “body”. Another reason why tomatoes turn up in so many delicious stews.
Don’t over-process your gazpacho
Cold gazpacho is one of the most refreshing things you can eat or drink on a hot summer’s day but bear in mind that your food processor doesn’t make your tomatoes particularly tasty. The oxygen that’s being whizzed around in the soup means that much of the delicate flavor of the tomatoes will be lost.
A spoonful of sugar adds flavor
“Risk adding a bit of sugar,” says Joel Aronsson. If you think tomatoes are flavorless, it’s often simply because they haven’t had a chance to ripen and develop a high sugar content, which improves the flavor. Muscovado sugar and honey add a bit of spice.
Sour flavors are good
Lemon and vinegar lift the flavor of tomatoes.
Great with salt
The umami in the tomato and salt reinforce each other. Reducing tomatoes into a thick sauce concentrates the flavors.
Alcohol lifts tomatoes
Alcohol also has a positive effect on the flavor of tomatoes. You need small amounts. Try a tablespoon of vodka in a tomato dip...
Frying tomatoes – e.g. a chunky slice of beef tomato – brings out good, charred flavors. But fry them for too long and the smell and the flavors will turn unpleasant. Don’t over-fry. And go for meatier types of tomato – e.g. plum tomatoes and beef tomatoes – in the frying pan.
The magic is in the umami
It’s tomatoes’ combination of sweetness and umami (and the salt you add) that makes the flavor so attractive. Helping the umami along the way – and the sweetness and saltiness too – is a frequently used trick in professional kitchens. The flavor of a tomato sauce is even deeper with a barely noticeable amount of anchovies, sardines or fish sauce. And parmesan, bacon, air-dried ham, grilled meat or fish, etc. are the perfect partners.
The peel trick in a stew
Tip: When cooking tomato sauce the skin will loosen in chunks and won’t disintegrate however much you boil it. Here’s what to do: Stir the sauce with an ordinary balloon whisk. The skin will stick to it and you will be able to lift it out.