Author Topic: Bright Clean Tomato Sauce  (Read 5512 times)

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Offline lokio

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Bright Clean Tomato Sauce
« on: May 28, 2008, 02:02:04 AM »
Hello,

This is my first post. It was supposed to be a simple offering of tomato sauce, prior to asking for help with pizza. It grew somewhat. I haven’t read every thread about sauce, so I hope I’m not going over too much old ground.

This sauce is designed to deliver a bright clean tomato flavour to a dish without screwing up its other flavours. It usually has pepper, salt & onion, but they might be omitted for pizza use. No herbs either, as that is usually handled elsewhere.

Theory: I've read a few times now, that the human brain can never discern more than three flavours simultaneously, however they can be summarised. Garlic & Mushroom can become garlic-mushroom. I'll assume this is true.

Thus for pizza sauce, the relative intensity levels of each flavour component should be:

1) Tomato

2) other
3) other

The tomato flavour must be first, and head and shoulders above the rest. This way on the pizza, the three distinct flavours will usually be buffalo mozzarella, sourdough crust & tomato. When you are licking the sauce from your lips you'll have the full complexity of the sauce.

Concept: 'freshness parameter'. For pizza sauce, I usually want the flavour to have equal elements of fresh and cooked. 50/50, right on the line, at the moment it hits my tongue. Having said that, 'freshness' can be varied with great results. For pizza use, I usually just take some moisture out of it, and let the pizza oven do the rest.

My tomato sauce has a special ingredient: Thai fish sauce. My tomato sauce doesn't taste fishy in the slightest. Few can identify it, and sophisticated palettes have missed it. I suspect that a better sauce than mine is made with a very clean fish stock. (What do you think?). I doubt that say… veal stock, could match fish sauce for power, subtle sophistication or cleanliness (although would doubtless make a fine sauce). Fish sauce is cheap and lasts for ages.

I use a very sharp knife to dice the onion as finely as I can. Garlic is OK, but not both. I suspect that a bulb vegetable I'm yet to identify is better than either of them.

I usually skin and fillet fresh tomatoes and put those through an irregular shaped food mill. The chunkier bits cook with a slight difference to the runnier bits, adding character to the sauce.

It's my belief that starting with fresh tomatoes helps with 'brightness', and allows wider 'contrast' on the freshness parameter. Sugar and red wine vinegar can do wonders for freshening up bad tomatoes, however good food is about allowing each component to be the best thing it can be, rather than compensating with additives. I don't see how any commercial tomato can compete with a half decent home grown.

my sauce

This sauce was entirely developed by feel, long before I purchased a digital scale. Although the measurements are guessed, I think they are usable.

best olive oil
1/2 finely chopped onion
5 drops of fish sauce
2 Kg of processed tomato
optional: salt, pepper & onion
banned: herbs, garlic & vegetables

1) Heat Pan: Place your widest pan on your biggest burner, to a medium-low heat

2) Add Oil: A generous amount of your best oil. The oil is going to carry the onion & stock flavour through the sauce.

3) Add Onion: Heat makes oil bitter, so add the onion well before the wisp of smoke occurs instead of just after. Hopefully your oil will
withstand the pizza oven too.

4) Add Fish Sauce: Shortly after the onion goes in, it will shed a lot of liquid. That is an excellent moment to add fish sauce.

5) Wait a bit: Some liquid must be allowed to evaporate, or you will end up with a slightly fishy sauce. You can let the onion go for a while, however you're just looking to soften the onion, not to caramelise it. Move the onion around a bit.

6) Stir in Tomato: Use a wooden spoon to stir the onion and oil off the bottom of the pan & through the tomatoes. Now is also the time to add a tiny bit of pepper or salt.

7) Lively Simmer: You need a high flame to stay on the fresh side of 50/50. The exact timing depends on so many factors, but it's very short. You really need the tomato spread thinly across your widest pan. A lively simmer, but definitely not boiling.

8) Cool it: Exactly when you should do this depends on your pizza oven, so do what you thinks' best. Put the pan on something cool, or move the sauce to a cool container. Just don't let it overcook after you've taken it off the heat.

The combination of onion and fish sauce, while both powerful and subtle, I feel can be improved upon. It's just not perfect, so I'm very keen to identify new things to try in this area.

What about my procedure? How can that be improved?   

What do people think about this three flavours thing? Chefs? Other experts? Will someone please explain this phenomenon properly?

Another area I'd like to see discussed more is heirloom vegetables. Download the PDF catalogue from diggers com au (first post, would someone please fix that?) and be amazed by pink beans, black watermelons, purple and aqua cabbage, and an extraordinary variety of tomatoes, some of which have got to be extremely tasty.

I emailed them about tomatoes to grow in pots on a Sydney (Australia) balcony, & they said: You could try any of the determinate or dwarf varieties. However all tomatoes are fairly vigorous plants and do need decent size pots and soil to grow properly. The best varieties for you to try are Siberian (S233) or Principe Borghese (S294). Happy gardening, Diggers

From the catalogue: Siberian – This cold tolerant compact trailer produces massed of 7cm fruit. Perfect for pots. 90 days, 4 kg/plant. 40 seeds. Dwarf. S233 Certified Organic.

Principe Borghese (heirloom) – As its name suggests this was the tomato for the average Italian, providing tomatoes for the salad as well as preserving. Its low sugar, seed and moisture content make it ideal to sun-dry for tomatoes for winter. Crops all at once for easy batch processing. Dwarf. 77 days, 2.9kg/plant. S294

Marco seems to be recommending those.

Food Mill: With the two textures created by the irregular shaped food mill blade, something magic happens. It's hard to describe, however the words shimmering and rippled spring to mind. Perhaps it's simply that the runnier stuff mixes with flavoured oil, while the larger stuff braises. Maybe they cook at different rates. It never seems to happen with whole crushed tomatoes, or even hand crushed flesh. Maybe the textures are too far apart, maybe there are chemical problems. I don't know, but whatever it is, I love it. The first time this happened I ate the entire sauce from the pan. I couldn't believe my luck.

I lost the mill blade when I moved a couple of months ago, although I can describe it. It has a few differently sized smallish holes spread around the place, which more or less make passata. The defining feature though, is 2x 3cm 'slit'. Some pieces of tomato flesh that emerge from this 'slit' remind me of a thin sliver of Sashimi. I only have the finest blade now, which is my least favourite ;-(

One last thing: Thank you everyone, for your outstanding contribution to pizza!

Lokio
« Last Edit: May 28, 2008, 11:09:37 PM by lokio »


Offline November

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Re: Bright Clean Tomato Sauce
« Reply #1 on: May 28, 2008, 03:28:09 AM »
Theory: I've read a few times now, that the human brain can never discern more than three flavours simultaneously

The impossibility of that statement is quite demonstrable.  A tomato alone has hundreds of flavor molecules that form a sensory profile allowing a person to identify the food as a tomato.  Remove a fraction of those molecules and the person won't taste a tomato anymore.  It will taste like something else.  Flavors accumulate on a molecular level, not on a whole-ingredient level as you are suggesting.

- red.november

Online Pete-zza

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Re: Bright Clean Tomato Sauce
« Reply #2 on: May 28, 2008, 08:42:46 AM »
Here is the diggers.com.au link: http://www.diggers.com.au/.

Peter

Offline lokio

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Re: Bright Clean Tomato Sauce
« Reply #3 on: May 28, 2008, 10:51:51 PM »
November,

With all due respect and then some, as far as I can see this is to do with the brains mechanism for handling sensory overload, and not molecules.

The effect is the same for the other senses. A formula 1 driver experiences tunnel vision (even without g-force). The individual colours he sees at any one time are not relevant to this phenomena.

Notice that whether it's food, art or music, simple always wins. Billie Jean has a huge range of sounds, but very few at any one moment.

While subconsciously some ancient portion of the brain seems to be processing things on a molecule by molecule basis, we're talking about the final few stages of processing in the nervous system, prior to consciousness.

Please outline your understanding of the way the brain translates molecular information into the 'tomato' or 'cheese' that we experience.

Lokio
« Last Edit: May 28, 2008, 11:07:10 PM by lokio »

Offline November

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Re: Bright Clean Tomato Sauce
« Reply #4 on: May 29, 2008, 12:23:32 AM »
Please outline your understanding of the way the brain translates molecular information into the 'tomato' or 'cheese' that we experience.

I've got a better idea.  Please cite your references describing what you're talking about, since you are presenting an alternate case for a subject with a long history of scientific research.  The burden of proof rests on the individual presenting the bold claim.  What you've stated thus far not only contradicts common knowledge regarding the human sensory system (specifically olfaction and gustation), it flies in the face of logic.

Offline lokio

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Re: Bright Clean Tomato Sauce
« Reply #5 on: May 29, 2008, 12:51:51 AM »
I'll just cite one. I suggest people take a good look at the credibility of these men and their institutions.

This is the result of 10 years of research. They concluded that nearly everybody is limited to three, with the odd four. They did a TV show in which an accomplished chef and a wine connoisseur repeatedly are unable to discern more than three flavors. It is a very very reproducible condition.

This is counter intuitive, not illogical.

PERCEPTION OF COMPLEX SMELLS AND TASTES   

Edited By
David Laing, CSIRO Division of Food Processing, Sydney, Australia
William Cain, John B. Pierce Foundation Laboratory, New Haven, Connecticut, U.S.A.
Robert McBride, CSIRO Division of Food Processing, Sydney, Australia
Barry Ache, University of Florida, U.S.A.

Description
This book disseminates the latest information on how humans, animals, insects, and marine life perceive complex odors and tastes. It tells how they use the information from these mixtures to analyze the food they eat, safety of their environment, reproductive status of partners, and how they respond to these complex stimuli.

Audience
Food institutes, food and beverage industry, and flavor and fragrance industry.

Bibliographic & ordering Information
Hardbound, 322 pages, publication date: JUN-1989
ISBN-13: 978-0-12-042990-5
ISBN-10: 0-12-042990-X
Imprint: ACADEMIC PRESS
« Last Edit: May 29, 2008, 01:32:56 AM by lokio »

Offline November

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Re: Bright Clean Tomato Sauce
« Reply #6 on: May 29, 2008, 01:38:49 AM »
PERCEPTION OF COMPLEX SMELLS AND TASTES   
ISBN-13: 978-0-12-042990-5

Perhaps you could enlighten me concerning the specific chapter, or even better, specific page you were reading that describes your theory.  After searching through the entire book, all I could find was discussion on component suppression in which an example is given for a three-component mixture.  This is found on page 79.  If this is what you are referring to, I don't think you grasped the meaning of the text.  If what you are basing your theory on is extraneous commentary (from a television show) offered on the book, I don't think the commentators grasped the meaning of the text.  That section is about summing suppressors and stimulants.  It doesn't deal with what happens when hundreds of molecules are at work.

- red.november

Offline November

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Re: Bright Clean Tomato Sauce
« Reply #7 on: May 29, 2008, 01:40:50 AM »
Please outline your understanding of the way the brain translates molecular information into the 'tomato'

http://jxb.oxfordjournals.org/cgi/reprint/57/4/887.pdf

Offline November

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Re: Bright Clean Tomato Sauce
« Reply #8 on: May 29, 2008, 01:55:59 AM »
It is a very very reproducible condition.

This is counter intuitive, not illogical.

It is quite illogical as people would be fools to order any toppings for their pizza, since according to your theory, people would only be able to sense the presence of crust, sauce, and cheese.  I would go so far as to say it's laughable.

Offline lokio

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Re: Bright Clean Tomato Sauce
« Reply #9 on: May 29, 2008, 02:30:15 AM »
I'm not saying they will only taste cheese tomato and crust. I'm saying they will only perceive the strongest three flavors at any one time.

That is why cleanliness is held in such high regard, why the margherita has stood the test of time, and why all of the most revered pizza are sparse.

It is common knowledge among chefs that as your palette develops it becomes less complex. Young chefs stick everything in the pan, accomplished chefs don't.

You are correct in that I have not read the book. It is also true that one of the authors appeared on the show and told the host she did not fully understand what was happening.

However for me that is beside the point. I saw what happened to the wine connoisseur  and the chef. The argument ended right there for me. How do you explain that? Lack of Logic? Lack of citation?

Not only that, my own experience backs it up. And a so does a very long line of culinary tradition, even if they didn't think of it quite like this.

I'm not going to spend any more time defending this position because it is so obviously true. If it isn't 100% true, then it's 95% true.

I'd be delighted to hear peoples beliefs about what IS happening, rather than what is not.


Offline November

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Re: Bright Clean Tomato Sauce
« Reply #10 on: May 29, 2008, 02:35:21 AM »
I'm not saying they will only taste cheese tomato and crust. I'm saying they will only perceive the strongest three flavors at any one time.

Neurons fire at about 200 MPH.  How much time does it take to chew your food?

Offline lokio

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Re: Bright Clean Tomato Sauce
« Reply #11 on: May 29, 2008, 08:16:58 PM »
I guess I'll have to do my own dirty work.
 
I'm still unable to post links, so I'd like to draw peoples attention to my question to November:

"Please outline your understanding of the way the brain translates molecular information into the 'tomato' or 'cheese' that we experience."

and the 887.pdf at oxfordjournals org he linked to in reply.


The only words relating to perception are:

"Human perception of flavour consists of a complex interaction between taste receptors in the tongue and olfactory receptors located in the nose. The contribution of smell, mediated by the olfactory system, to taste is not well understood."

"Good tomato flavour requires minimum levels of sugars (glucose and fructose) and acids (citric and malic) that are perceived [sic] by receptors in the tongue. But the contributions of the volatile constituents perceived by the olfactory system are much less understood. Human sensitivity to volatile chemicals varies hugely and the impact of a volatile on flavour is determined by both its concentration and its odour threshold"

"Some of these volatiles impart desirable qualities while others are negatively perceived."

And there was also:

"The flavour of fresh commercially-produced tomatoes is generally considered to be poor. The causes for the lessthan- [sic] ideal quality of these tomatoes can be attributed both to the cultivars and handling of the harvested materials. Breeders have focused on traits related to production and handling, while flavour has not been a high priority."


I couldn't believe my luck!

I profusely apologise to everybody for my role in the heated nature of this discussion.

November, I really do consider your knowledge to be awesome.

Lokio

Offline November

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Re: Bright Clean Tomato Sauce
« Reply #12 on: May 29, 2008, 08:56:50 PM »
Lokio,

Was there a point to what you just posted?  I'm glad you can read the document I linked to, but how does knowing you can read it explain what you have a problem with?  I posted the link because I thought you were interested in seeing what molecular information was required for the perception of a tomato, and because it reenforces my statement about there being hundreds of flavor molecules in a tomato.  If you require detailed reading on the cerebral cortex's role in flavor perception, you can pick up Flavor Perception (ISBN-10: 1405116277) which is a couple decades more recent than the book you referenced.  Specifically, you will want to see page 229 where there is a pretty diagram.  However, given that you haven't even read the book you referenced, I didn't think you were serious about the subject.

You couldn't believe your luck?  What are you talking about now?

- red.november

Offline beammeup

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Re: Bright Clean Tomato Sauce
« Reply #13 on: June 08, 2008, 03:15:11 AM »
I don't know much about how many tastes my wee little brain can handle at once, but I would like to comment on the Thai fish sauce. I use it also, I started when I read that a lot of Italian cooks dice up an anchovy at throw it into the sauce. I got to thinking that fish sauce is made from anchovies so why not try it in my sauce. Its a lot cheaper and it tastes great. Its also a great salt substitute.

Offline lokio

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Re: Bright Clean Tomato Sauce
« Reply #14 on: June 09, 2008, 03:29:01 AM »
I'd like to tell you that my first post there is only my sixth in nine years of using the internet. I didn't see the point in posting the sauce without explaining its context. I should have known better. Sorry for the big post.

Lokio

Offline lokio

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Re: Bright Clean Tomato Sauce
« Reply #15 on: June 09, 2008, 03:31:53 AM »
I'll spare you my description of the tests, but there are some other things I want to say. The following is something I read in New Scientist fifteen years ago and not a conclusion of mine:

Quote
While subconsciously some ancient portion of the brain seems to be processing things on a molecule by molecule basis, we're talking about the final few stages of processing in the nervous system, prior to consciousness.

I went with the <3 flavours thing because I thought it clearly showed the importance of momentary changes while chewing and how flavour is built up over time. I still think the abrupt drop in performance experienced by the connoisseur and the chef is very notable. Those results were said to be consistent with much more comprehensive tests by the authors of the book. I may have to concede that the number will go higher with non clashing flavours.

Another thing I learned from that TV show is that the nose intrinsically prefers a level of molecular concentration far below the levels that most people are cooking with. This and the tendency of flavours to escalate out of control form the basis of my philosophy of removing ingredients from recipes and replacing them with technique.

I'm trying to emulate what I see in expensive meals. The standout theme I've noticed is that there are 2-6 well developed flavours on the plate and you are physically discouraged from putting too many in your mouth at once. Three and four flavours are most common, and two is more common than five or six.

It's got to be said that I don't cook that well. I'd pay $40 for the best stuff I come up with but there are numerous dismal failures to be sure. My goals are lofty however. I have a long way to go.

Lokio
« Last Edit: June 09, 2008, 04:02:00 AM by lokio »

Offline lokio

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Re: Bright Clean Tomato Sauce
« Reply #16 on: June 09, 2008, 03:37:26 AM »
Quote
I started when I read that a lot of Italian cooks dice up an anchovy at throw it into the sauce.

I had forgotten about that. I became interested in fish sauce when I heard it described as having flavour enhancing properties. I started using it immediately after I had a tomato soup at Inle Lake in Myanmar. It was light and watery with hand crushed tomato, but the fish sauce made it taste incredible. I don't remember it having onion, but it may have. It only had basil other than that. That place was awesome.

Lokio

Offline lokio

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Re: Bright Clean Tomato Sauce
« Reply #17 on: June 09, 2008, 03:52:46 AM »
Quote
I use a very sharp knife to dice the onion as finely as I can. Garlic is OK, but not both.
I don't actually think there's much of a problem mixing garlic and onion. That is something an Italian chef whom I respect greatly taught me many years ago, and a rule that has served me well. For every rule of cooking there are notable exceptions.

Lokio
« Last Edit: June 09, 2008, 04:04:07 AM by lokio »

Offline anton-luigi

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Re: Bright Clean Tomato Sauce
« Reply #18 on: October 02, 2008, 11:36:17 PM »
Am I the only one here using anchovy paste in my pizza sauce? ???

Online Pete-zza

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Re: Bright Clean Tomato Sauce
« Reply #19 on: October 02, 2008, 11:45:35 PM »
Am I the only one here using anchovy paste in my pizza sauce? ???

anton-luigi,

If you do an advanced forum search on "anchovy sauce" (without the quotes), you will find several posts in which posters mention using anchovies (whole or paste) in sauces.

Peter


 

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