Photo: doneastwest, Flickr
Behold the power of the French technique called pincage. Pronounced pin-sahge and derived from the French word pincer, or to stiffen or pinch, this technique refers to what happens to tomato paste when it's cooked for a few minutes. Tomato paste is the most concentrated form of tomato available, and its high concentration of salt, sugar and tangy acid make for perfect caramelization. It's often added in the early stages of cooking a dish to intensify flavor and color. When making a beef stew, meaty soup or even a long-simmering chicken dish, add 2 to 3 tablespoons tomato paste to the initial sauté of onions, carrots or celery after they've cooked for a few minutes and softened slightly. Make sure to stir frequently – those sugars can burn if left unattended for too long!