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I batch pan-fried a paste of onions and tomatoes for using them in future dishes.

I love the flavour of garlicy onions and tomatoes! How can I make their flavour stronger?

I believe restaurants for all kinds of cuisines make use of it.

This is how I make them right now:

I semi-grind onions, garlic and tomatoes in the ratio of 1 : (handful of garlic) : 1.

Then I roast them on the pan with a little oil starting with onions + garlic, and then once they're translucent adding tomatoes + salt. Next I roast it on a simmer for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.

I would like to make the onion and tomato flavour a lot more punchy. How can I achieve this?

  • Unfortunately my cooking adventures are on a hold due to coronavirus in our country. I'll be delayed in choosing an answer. But don't let that stop you from adding an answer! I promise to try every recommendation before updating. :) – Mugen Mar 24 at 5:43
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Raw is punchy!

Reserve some of your crushed garlic and onion mix. Mince it fine. Then add it at the end. Cooking brings out some allium flavors and attenuates others. If your figure out the raw punch is what you are looking for, experiment with the ratio of cooked to raw, or experiment with just raw onions or just raw garlic.

Or you could consider bringing in different members of onion / garlic family which could also give your mix different depth. For example some people find raw green onions or raw sweet Vidalia onions more palatable than raw yellow onions / garlic. Shallots are similar to garlic but less pungent and if raw garlic is too much raw shallots might work.

On the tomato end I agree with @myklbykl as regards additions. Worcestershire sauce is one I use. Tomato paste in a small quantity can add more tomato punch. Anchovy paste is available in tubes and can be good for this sort of thing.

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  • Good point about crushing garlic. I should have mentioned that the more the garlic or onion is crushed the stronger the flavor will be. Also, onions grown in soil with more sulfur will have a stronger flavor. – myklbykl Mar 21 at 18:25
  • When you mention tomato paste, do you mean store bought paste? Because I already created my own while cooking. Also, I've never had Worcestershire sauce. Could you please describe the taste of it before I buy? I thought it contained soya which should make it strongly salty. I can't add Anchovy unfortunately because I'm allergic to sea food. – Mugen Mar 22 at 1:09
  • Worcestershire sauce doesn't taste exactly like anything else, but it's a pungent, vinegar-sweet-salty-umami sauce in the same broad category as A1 Steak Sauce, tangy barbecue sauces, or various Asian sauces like ponzu, if you've had any of those. It's reasonably salty, but not purely salt-forward like straight soy sauce. – A_S00 Mar 23 at 22:39
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A. To make the flavor of tomatoes stronger in a sauce:

  1. start with better-tasting tomatoes. Depending on time of year these will often be canned. There are many reviews of canned tomatoes, so I'll not pass judgment here but there are some excellent ones out there.
  2. reduce the sauce more to intensify the flavor.
  3. Tomatoes are an umami flavor. Adding another umami to it could intensify the flavor you're looking for (such as marmite, anchovies, etc.).
  4. if you want to get really fancy you can try playing around with a centrifuge such as a Spinzall.

B. To make onions and garlic stronger you can try combining sweated fresh onions and garlic with powder. Be sure to activate the powder in water before cooking directly in fat or the flavor enzyme will be deactivated before it can go to work.

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  • Marmite sauce! That is a new idea. I will try it. – Willk Mar 21 at 17:47
  • Could you please define better tasting tomatoes? Do you mean bright red? Also, by reducing the sauce, do you mean heat it more to reduce the water content? 3) I'm looking for the garlicy, tomato, onion flavour. Not sure what other umami to use for that but I'll try searching about it. B) could you please tell me more about this powder thing? Do you mean the onion and tomato powders? I have them as home but I normally put them in oil because I read that their flavour compounds are oil soluble and not water soluble. Could you please elaborate a little on why you recommend putting them in water? – Mugen Mar 21 at 18:03
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    I mean more flavorful. If you have compared most grocery store tomatoes to home-grown or good farmers' market tomatoes you probably noticed that grocery store tomatoes have almost no flavor. Canned tomatoes are picked at their ripest and generally have much more flavor than ones you buy at a store, but there are large differences between different brands of canned tomatoes, and even differences within a brand between whole, cubed, etc. If you don't need fresh tomatoes for your recipe, you're often better off with canned. If tomatoes are in season buy them and make things where they'll shine. – myklbykl Mar 21 at 18:22
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    Alliums (onions, garlic, leeks, etc.) produce a strong taste/smell when cut because chemicals separated by membranes combine. The enzyme alliinase converts alliin into allicin. Allicin is unstable and changes into other sulfur-containing compounds, producing strong tastes and flavors. The more allicin that is created, the more taste and odor is created. This is why roasting a whole garlic clove produces a sweet, mild flavor while crushing a garlic clove and then cooking it produces a very strong taste. Allinase in powdered garlic and onion is activated by water and killed by heat. – myklbykl Mar 22 at 5:13
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    This is a good answer. I want to reiterate that combining different sources of umami chemicals (glutamate, inosinate and guanylate) has a compound effect. Also, if you slowly dehydrate the tomatoes in halves their own enzymes will unlock more umami chemicals. You can do other things to improve ingredients early in the process, like enhancing the garlic with maillard reactions a bit, this is known as "black garlic". You can also treat the same ingredient in different ways, eg lightly cooked tomatoes with lacto-fermented tomatoes, or cooking the flesh differently to the jelly. – goboating Mar 23 at 18:15
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more options:

  1. add more tomatoes via pre-concentrated products like tomato paste or powder
  2. when initially cooking, add some rinsed tomato stems and leaves, this should help with the "punchy" part, just be sure to remove them soon after cooking
  3. after cooking, add up to 1 tsp lemon juice per medium/large tomato. if balanced well, the lemon flavor will lift the tomato flavor without actually tasting lemony
  4. other spices like fresh-ground black pepper may give you some of the desired flavor punch

cooking time might matter, too. a long-cooked marina tastes very different from a quick sauce of mashed, fresh tomatoes

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  • (1) Could you please provide more information on how to "add tomato paste or powder"? Will the flavor be stronger when you add them to boiling water or should you add them to hot oil? (2) Tomato stems and leaves are hard to find in the market. I'm not sure how to get them. (3) (4) I've tried with lemon + pepper. They have a distinctly different taste than tomatoes or onions. I"m trying to increase the flavor of tomato + onions. – Mugen Mar 24 at 5:40
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    1) tomato powder, for thick paste, can be mixed by volume 1 part powder + 2 parts hot water. it tastes much less cooked (to me) than tomato paste. don't add dry powder directly to hot oil. 2) some retailers sell tomatoes on the vine. 3&4) honestly, I totally agree with you. for more fresh tomato and onion flavor, you can also try starting with more tomatoes and partially dehydrate them with a minimum of heat (sun drying or "Alton Brown dehydrator"), cook them for less time, and add the onions towards the end of cooking – pleasePassTheCheese Mar 25 at 2:57
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there's another approach altogether that has worked for me: lacto-fermented tomato sauce. only takes a week, triples the amount of dishwashing, and could easily go completely wrong, especially on the first try!

  • same amount of raw tomatoes you're already starting with, quartered, and keep the juice!
  • halve the amount of onions you'd normally use, because the flavor doesn't get softened by heat, diced and puréed
  • (garlic, puréed. I add half the weight of onions used, but that's a lot of garlic)
  • 1/2 tsp salt per pound of tomatoes (5.1 g salt per kilo of tomatoes)
  • 1 tsp cultured buttermilk per pound of tomatoes used (about 10.2 g per kilo)

pick a vegetable fermentation guide on the internet, follow the process, but with these ingredients, mixed well and mashed down very well to eliminate bubbles. if all goes well, in 7-10 days, you can purée the results and pour your sauce over pasta or whatever. it tastes fantastic, fresh, bright, and hopefully very punchy.

This sauce can be cooked, but fresh flavor will be lost.

If you have questions about lacto-fermented tomato sauce, you should definitely create new questions, as this has veered far from the original topic, and I honestly don't know how well this answer will be received by the community.

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  • This is a very interesting answer! I have a few queries. When you say "halve the amount of onions because the flavor doesn't get softened" - do you mean the flavor of tomatoes doesn't get softened? Or the flavor of onions don't get softened? Another question I have is about how one would use this sauce in dishes. Do you pour it at the end? Or is it safe to cook this along with rice? I'm not sure whether the heat will reduce it's flavor or decrease its edibility. Thanks a lot for replying! – Mugen Mar 26 at 12:34
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    the "sharp" flavor of onions gets softened with cooking – pleasePassTheCheese Mar 26 at 13:46
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    uses: usable immediately, but you will probably want to either slow fermentation by refrigerating it, halt fermentation by freezing it, or kill the fermenters by heating it to 180F/82C. eat it directly from the jar, pour directly on pasta or mix into whatever you would normally use a tomato/onion sauce for.. store in refrigerator up to a week. freeze in air-free container 6 mos – pleasePassTheCheese Mar 26 at 13:56
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    there's another option for concentrating flavor: freeze-concentrating or "freeze reduction." starting with ferment or fresh juice, squeeze all liquid you can out of the bulk, freeze the squeezed out stuff. put liquid in a bowl, freeze bowl in freezer, break up ice, put in strainer lined with cheesecloth or a paper towel, put strainer over a bowl, put stack in refrigerator, and wait for slush to half thaw. in the bowl is concentrated tomato juice with more flavor. discard remaining slush. with the concentrate, repeat 1-2x. works well. you can add concentrate back to squeezed out stuff – pleasePassTheCheese Mar 28 at 6:59

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