Dried fruits and vegetables have always been
an important part of many cuisines. Drying foods makes them suitable for
long-term storage. It also concentrates flavors. Today, there are still
some vegetables and fruits that are only briefly available as fresh
ingredients, morels for instance. Throughout the rest of the year, they
can only be available in a preserved form.
We also enjoy the special flavors of dried
chilies, mushrooms, tomatoes and fruits such as apples, cherries and
raisins, even though we may often be able to purchase those same
ingredients fresh. To get the most from these ingredients, recipes may
often call for "plumped" or re-hydrated dried fruits, vegetables, and
mushrooms. The method is as follows -
Check the dried ingredient first, to remove
any obvious debris or seriously blemished, moldy specimens.
Place it in a bowl or other container and
add enough boiling or very hot liquid (water, wine, fruit juices or broth
can all be used) to cover.
Let the dried ingredient steep in the hot
water for several minutes, until softened and plumped.
Pour off the liquid, reserving it if desired
for use in another preparation. If necessary, the liquid can be strained
through a coffee filter or cheesecloth to remove any debris.
Dried chilies may be toasted in the same
manner as dried spices, nuts and seeds, by tossing them in a dry skillet
over moderate heat. They may also be passed repeatedly through a flame
until toasted and softened. The pulp and seeds are then scraped from the
skin, or the whole chili may be used, according to individual recipes.