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Chat Leftovers: Paste, puree, what's the difference?

Hey there. Did you spend your morning rummaging through the pantry for cans of pumpkin to sell on eBay? Or maybe buying eggs for your own in-home taste test? If you don't know what I'm talking about, you're seriously behind on your reading. Those stories, and more, are in today's Food section, so grab it and get busy.

Oh, but wait. You'll need to take an hour off at 1 today for our weekly Free Range chat. Ask us questions, maybe even win a free book. Our special guests today will be Matt Coates, who wrote about the nationwide shortage of canned pumpkin, and Tamar Haspel, who fearlessly put up her own hens' eggs to compete against standard supermarket eggs, and ... well, you'll have to read her article to find out.

See you at 1. And if you ask a question that doesn't get answered, we still might get to it next Wednesday morning in this space. Like we're about to do for this one:

Sorry if this is a basic question, but what’s the difference between tomato puree and tomato paste?

Well, it's just a matter of time.

They are pretty much the same thing -- tomatoes -- but cooking time creates the big difference between them. Tomato paste is cooked for hours, making it very thick, with a deeper, extremely concentrated flavor; a little goes a long way. Tomato puree is cooked for less time, so it's thinner, with a somewhat fresher flavor. Both are thicker than tomato sauce or crushed tomatoes.

The rap against tomato paste is that it can sometimes taste bitter or metallic. (Many cooks don't like to use it at all.) Added judiciously, though, it can lend a lot of flavor to dishes where you want a tomato flavor note. I generally wouldn't use it in a fresh-tomato dish; it's just too overpowering. But it definitely has its place. And ever since paste became available in tubes, it's been easier to store in the fridge, and less wasteful, than the canned stuff.
-- Jane Touzalin

By Jane Touzalin  |  June 2, 2010; 12:00 PM ET
Categories:  Chat Leftovers  | Tags: Chat Leftovers, Free Range, Jane Touzalin  
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