I’m such a happy camper. My Excalibur dehydrator arrived yesterday. First, it’s one of the few plug-and-play devices I’ve purchased in a long time that is exactly that. You plug it in, you turn it on, it works. Fabulous.
But now, I’m playing. Banana-Strawberry fruit leather. Perfect. Happy Hubby. Dried citrus slices make a beautiful topping to a froth of non-fat latte. We have dried apples, of course, my most favorite mid-afternoon snack food, and now I can make my own and save a bundle while avoiding the sulfites and nitrates and added sugars that make me suffer.
Within hours, life has gotten very interesting. I’m dehydrating leftover vegetable soup into leathers I can carry to work, add boiling water, and make whole again. That takes a lot less room in my freezer and in my bag, leaves all the nutrition while removing the worry that my container of carrot soup will pop open and leak all over my laptop. And the little soup leather bits make great gnawing if I’m running too fast to rehydrate them, or on a car trip, a plane trip, stuck in a hotel room.
But hands-down my favorite thing so far? Cucumber chips. Mushroom chips. Radish chips. These things are killer, crunchy, savory, teeny-calorie crunchy things so beautiful you’d present them to company easily. Drying a thing removes the water, and so condenses the calories by weight. You have to reduce your portions, drink more water, count the whole food. But while condensing the matter, you dramatically condense flavor, and though the heat of the dehydrator is very low, the veggies pick up a slightly roasted quality. When you eat dehydrated veggies, you may eat a few more, but the nutrition is so high and the calories so low when compared with anything else we traditionally call snack food.
Oh, I’m also dehydrating some leftovers. My cauliflower tabouleh is on a rack, and some roasted eggplant, green beans, and cauliflower. These are crazy experiments. But why not play? This is the oldest method we humans have for preserving food, and I’m in a mood to explore what we did before we became so huge and unhealthy.
Next up, running back through my inspiration for getting this device: Roxanne Klein and Charlie Trotter’s book, Raw (Ten Speed Press, 2003), where we learn to use the dehydrator as a cooking device for making lovely shells and bases for savory confits and fruit tarts, and cheeses from soaked raw nuts, “flours” from sprouted seeds, and other highly nutritious and new foodstuffs that have risen from this new/old cuisine. Roxanne’s pine nut mayonnaise, just for instance, is life-changing.
That’s what’s going on in my household this holiday. I’m exploring a new cuisine, and deciding what new tools and techniques I can take from it and bring into my home, into my life, to inform our way of eating.
And this cuisine is big. I can feel it having an influence on my cooking that is almost as big as the hold Chinese and French cuisine have had on me to date. I don’t see converting my family from meat and fish eating, away from cooked things, joining a movement. But I am already drawing from this cuisine to bring more vegetables and fruits and nuts into my cooking, more variety, more flavor, more intrigue.
And new toys. Next up: a high-speed blender. Hmm.
(No kidding, the portobella chips are the best thing I’ve tasted in ages.)
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