Working with Dried Fruits and Vegetables

Working with Dried Fruits and Vegetables

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 -

  1. Check the dried ingredient first, to remove any obvious debris or seriously blemished, moldy specimens.

  2. 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.

  3. Let the dried ingredient steep in the hot water for several minutes, until softened and plumped.

  4. 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.

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