Is tomato paste controversial?

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I don't have strong feelings on the issue, but can see both sides.  In a sense, using tomato paste might be a bit of a cheat if you market your meal as "made from scratch."  To me, that means that each ingredient begins in the simplest and most natural state available to the kitchen, or is otherwise a common cooking ingredient that has not been pre-mixed or specially processed.  Obviously, some ingredients must be processed or mixed to be available to the kitchen, for example, anchovies, baking powder, and even flour, but I would not consider these "specially processed".

I just looked at a can of Contadina tomato paste, believing it to be a national brand, and found only one ingredient:  Tomatoes

Arguably, tomatoes are available to the kitchen in a simpler form than paste.  Sauce can be cooked down.  So, if the use of store-bought, preprocessed tomato paste was banned in cooking competition, I would not argue the point.  And if a purist raises a brow over the opening of a can of tomato paste, I would understand.

In the end, a close call and an interesting discussion, in my opinion, and perfect for those with the time to debate such things (and make their own tomato paste).

Now, if I could figure out where I set the Lipton Onion Soup mix, I could finsh my "homemade" meatloaf.....

Ok, the problem here, Buckeye, is that tomato paste and canned or bottled tomatoes originated through the need to have tomatoes all year long.  It is perfectly absurd to take winter "tomatoes' and try to make ANYTHING any good, because they just don't taste good in winter, they need the hot sun to grow well and flavorful.  Italians have for generations and generations bottled their own tomatoes if they lived in the country (or bought it from people who did if they lived in the city) and used it to make sauce all year long.

I know people who bottle their own tomatoes here, they have to have an outside area because it takes up a lot of space to make enough bottles for the whole year (and what's the point if you don't mkae that many?) and they use a bottle a day.  You get a big gas ring and small gas tank, big pots to sterilize them, lots and lots of bottles, a capper, bottle caps, etc etc etc. 

I don;t know anyone who makes their own paste. 

Paste may be used with water to substitute for tomatoes, but is usually used to add a little depth of flavor.  Everyone seems to have a little half-squeezed tube of tomato paste in the fridge.  Why would you go and make a tomato reduction at home, with the risk of burning the tomatoes (high risk!). 
 
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Of course.  The cans are tiny to begin with.  While they hold more than a tablespoon or two, it doesn't feel like much more.  Also, I'm using it in tomato sauces anyway, so I'm simply adding more tomato solids to other tomato products.  I'm a one-trick pony with tomato paste at the present time.  I like strong, bold flavors, so tossing in a whole can isn't worrysome, but I do understand the use of tomato paste in non-tomato based sauces and can see how such an amount could throw off the flavor balance. 

I usually take one of the "large" cans, not to be confused with #10 cans, of crushed tomatoes and a small can of tomato paste and start my sauce from there.  One day, I'll buy a food mill and start with whole peeled tomatoes (canned) and extract the seeds like a good boy, but for home use, crushed tomatoes work fine (for me). 
 
Just our of pernicious curiousity, Gobblygook, are you using enough tomato paste that you can justify buying it in cans?
 
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I am not the "Anti-Paste"!
 
I don't have strong feelings on the issue, but can see both sides.  In a sense, using tomato paste might be a bit of a cheat if you market your meal as "made from scratch."  To me, that means that each ingredient begins in the simplest and most natural state available to the kitchen, or is otherwise a common cooking ingredient that has not been pre-mixed or specially processed.  Obviously, some ingredients must be processed or mixed to be available to the kitchen, for example, anchovies, baking powder, and even flour, but I would not consider these "specially processed".

I just looked at a can of Contadina tomato paste, believing it to be a national brand, and found only one ingredient:  Tomatoes

Arguably, tomatoes are available to the kitchen in a simpler form than paste.  Sauce can be cooked down.  So, if the use of store-bought, preprocessed tomato paste was banned in cooking competition, I would not argue the point.  And if a purist raises a brow over the opening of a can of tomato paste, I would understand.

In the end, a close call and an interesting discussion, in my opinion, and perfect for those with the time to debate such things (and make their own tomato paste).

Now, if I could figure out where I set the Lipton Onion Soup mix, I could finsh my "homemade" meatloaf.....
It may be that my original post is getting a bit skewed and skewered.  I am not the "Anti-Paste"!  I simply proposed a working definition of "made from scratch" and applied the use of store-bought tomato paste to the definition.  I concluded for myself that it was a close call and an interesting discussion.  (The fact that I had a can of tomato paste handy should tell you something.)

I understand that some of us mill flour, make cheese, render lard, or raise dairy cattle.  Some may even own a salt mine or sneak into their neighbors.  I would suggest, however, that King Arthur Flour, Grana Padana, your local butchers packaged lard, milk and yes, lowly salt, are common cooking ingredients available to the kitchen in their simplest and most natural state that have not been pre-mixed or specially processed, as provided in my definition.  So lets put the:

"Salt, because I didn't mine and grind it myself?" arguments behind.  I wasn't going there...

Let's also distinguish "made from scratch" and "homemade" as hinted in my closing remark about Lipton Onion Soup and meatloaf.  To me, "homemade" simply means assembled and cooked at home and therefore would allow much more flexibility in the use of specially processed ingredients, i.e. Heinz Ketchup*, cannned mushroom soup, that (yucky) velvety cheese-like substance, prepackaged rubs and spices, and quite comfortably, store-bought tomato paste.  

Understand that my first post did not answer the OP's question and was not intended as an answer.  It was merely a framework for discussion.  If you feel it is unhelpful please suggest why, or simply ignore it.   

Personally, I am not a purist, but a simple homecook who tries to avoid processed food and to stay as close to the "scratch" as reasonably practicable.  I always have tomato paste in the cupboard.  In fact I put a half can in the fridge yesterday after making my roasted green beens with bacon, onions and orange zest to go with my mashed cauliflower-potatos and cabbage rolls!  I used tomato paste on roasted root vegetables the other weekend to add color and depth of flavor.  Perfectomundo!

 *Processed and bottled in my hometown!
 
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I have no qualms about using tomato paste--as long as you cook it--saute, roast, etc. before adding it to liquids .

Loooove the stuff in tubes, can you say "Practical"?

Matter of fact, I take the tube concept with me into work.  At camping supply stores you can buy empty plastic tubes that are meant to be filled with whatever food product you desire:  For campers this means mustard, mayo, condensed milk, etc.  They are foodsafe and re-usable 

For me at work this means expensive nut pastes, invert sugar, honey, jams  or any other stuff that is messy and sticky to dispense and you only want a little bit, and not have a 2lb container sitting on your bench.

And back to the main topic, folks.....
 
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Foodpump, I hope they've improved those squeeze tubes through the years. The early ones were----well, someday I'll tell you about the backpack lined with honey.
 
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If the Tomato paste is pushing the "made from scratch button" then I guess all my Bases are also. What the heck do I call my Open Face Hot Beef Sandwich special. Hot Beef Sandwich piled high on two pieces of bread topped with almost homemade gravy. Does any one really give two hoots if the gravy is from a base, the only thing I care about is that it good.......................ChefBillyB
 
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Tomato paste in a tube?  Good grief - buy it in a jar and just put a layer of oil onto it to keep it fresh/img/vbsmilies/smilies/biggrin.gif. Just roll the jar around a bit to coat all the paste, otherwise you can get that lovely little ring of fur /img/vbsmilies/smilies//smile.gif   We can get the tubes here, but the jars are way more economical and I tend to use lots for lasagnes, ragouts, stews, soups, pizzas etc, so I go the cheapest route.  As long as you cook it well first, its a great ingredient and pairs particularly well with oregano, onions, and garlic.  Plus a little sugar

As regards cooking from scratch - I agree that it's as homemade as possible with basic ingredients.  And not many of us can make all of these from "the ground up".  I don't have a herd of cattle in my back yard or a field of barley, etc etc.  But I do try to make it from plain then create something special.  I reckon that's the general idea.
 
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DC Sunshine I used to cover the paste with oil too but I've read or heard that bacteria can seep in anyway, or are already in and it creates botulism.

I think the word "homemade" has different meaning to different people.  I once went to a friends house for home made food and the appetizer was a can of refried beans, a packet of cream cheese, and a bag of shredded cheddar all combined together and put in the oven to create a dip.  Was it good?  Yea it was pretty good.  Was it home made?  I don't know.... I would atleast grate the cheese myself lol.
 
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Was it home made?  I don't know.... I would atleast grate the cheese myself lol.

This question of homemade vs. scratch vs. convenience is not an easy one to answer.

It seems to me that, as cooks, our goal is to produce good tasting food. Obviously, the higher the quality the better. And health concerns, of course, enter the picture. But, first and foremost, the question is: Does it taste good.

Another part of the equation: When does making everything from scratch (whatever that means to you) cross the line from real values into snobbery?

Let's take that dip. Sure, you could make your own cream cheese relatively simply. And all it takes to convert a bag of dried beans into refried beans is time. The cheddar? Well, as you say, at least grate it yourself.

And the basic question remains. Would that more-or-less from scratch dip taste any better than the one your friend put together? Indeed, would it even taste any different?

Now I happen to be a scratch cook. Not from some sense of moral superiority, but because I enjoy the process of turning raw materials into a finished dish. I still believe, after all these years, that the alchemy which lets us convert produce, and proteins, and flavorings into something greater than the sum of its parts is as close to perfoming magic as most of us will ever get. Those of us seriously into bread making know there is magic involved.

Unlike others, however, I don't lord it over cooks who use more convenience products than I do, nor do I hold them in any sort of disdain. KK, you're friend's dip, far as I'm concerned, is just as home-made as the one I would make going through the whole process. The fact is, she took ingredients and converted them into something different; something greater than the sum of their parts; something that tasted good. What difference does it make where on the continuum from scratch to premade she started?
 
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I don't disagree with you KY about the bean dip being relatively home made.  But I know a lot of people who cook like this, meaning they buy a lot of convenience foods and combine them.  Frozen spinach + cream cheese = spinach dip.  Salsa from a jar + velveeta = queso dip.  Mini hot dogs + pillsbury rolls = pigs in a blanket.  I don't know if I consider this cooking.  This is more assembling and preparing food, which definitely has a place in my repertoire.  But you won't see me pouring a can of cream of mushroom soup into a skillet of grilled chicken very often.

I was once watching a cooking show, I don't remember the name of it.  It was something about people who didn't know how to cook anything and they went to their mother's house to learn how to cook their favorite meal from growing up.  Something like that.  In this one episode the woman wanted to learn how to cook her mother's "Salmon Wellington" which sounded very fancy.  All she did was take puff pastry sheets (one per person) and lay a piece of salmon, a piece of frozen creamed spinached, and a stick of string cheese (mozz) on it and then rolling it up to bake.  It's definitely creative and I like the idea of the creamed spinach but string cheese? 
 
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....but string cheese? 

Why not? Ultimately it's just mozzarella, and once it's melted how could you tell it apart from a hunk that you grated yourself?

Personally, I don't find mozzarella and salmon particularly appealing. But that's a different issue.
 
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Very, very, very few people make things completely from scratch. By that I mean you follow the entire process from ground to table. There are some who do, and I have all the respect in the world for them. The rest of us take shortcuts. The question lies in how far we are willing to go to cut corners. But as KY said, if it tastes good, who cares?
 
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....but string cheese? 

Why not? Ultimately it's just mozzarella, and once it's melted how could you tell it apart from a hunk that you grated yourself?

Personally, I don't find mozzarella and salmon particularly appealing. But that's a different issue.
I agree, I don't like the mozzarella idea at all.  Besides, the spinach has cream in it, how much more creaminess is necessary?

 
 
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I suppose what people are thinking when it comes to the dips is that it doesn't require actual cooking.  Most people relate homemade cooking with some sort of prep work like cutting, slicing, and dicing then actual cooking in a pot or pan.  My opinion of the dip is more of combining rather than cooking as you opened some cans and some packages.
 
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Just on the dip/mozarella issue: what is string cheese, is someone has the time to explain, that would be great.  Does it just mean cheese that goes stringy once you heat it, or something else altogether?

Mozarella, to me, is great fun on pizzas. Chomp down on your slice, and watch the stringy fun begin.  I like that.  It does need other things with it though, like pepperoni, tomato paste ( good reference for the original topic of this thread), dried oregano, anchovies etc.  But not too much more.  Certainly not pineapple /img/vbsmilies/smilies/eek.gif   That's a pet peeve for me, the ham and pineapple pizza.  Big shudder there.

  I can't say I use moz for anything else.  A good pizza base, bought or made, brushed with a good cold pressed olive oil, then spread with tomato paste and sprinkled with dried oregano, layer of sliced moz, then toppings as you feel - yum.  Gotta have garlic bread with that.

(Off to the kitchen for an anchovie right now /img/vbsmilies/smilies/thumb.gif)
 
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String cheeze is aged mozz in the form of small logs, maybe an inch in diameter. While it looks like a solid hunk it's actually like a phone cable---composed of individual strands. These strands, or "strings," easily pull away from the whole.

Kids, especially, like it as a snack, because they peel off the strings and pop 'em into their mouths.
 
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DC Sunshine I used to cover the paste with oil too but I've read or heard that bacteria can seep in anyway, or are already in and it creates botulism.

I think the word "homemade" has different meaning to different people.  I once went to a friends house for home made food and the appetizer was a can of refried beans, a packet of cream cheese, and a bag of shredded cheddar all combined together and put in the oven to create a dip.  Was it good?  Yea it was pretty good.  Was it home made?  I don't know.... I would atleast grate the cheese myself lol.
KKV , I can only talk from personal experience and am no expert.  Thanks for your info on that. It's just how I've always done it and 30 years after cooking seriously, I am still here.  Good info you've given for those who may have doubts about it.

Re the homemade dip - well it's hard to classify that - maybe they just wanted to spend time with you as a guest./img/vbsmilies/smilies/smile.gif   If if was good - what does it really matter?   Not many people have tenough time to make things from "scratch", however we want to define that, given pressure of jobs, commuting, kids and all sorts of other things, so they do the best with the time they have,

 
 

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