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Forget potato chips. April 13, 2013

Posted by ourfriendben in recipes, wit and wisdom.
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Silence Dogood here. Unless your head is stuffed so far down a potato-chip bag that you can’t see past them, you’ve probably noticed the proliferation of other “chips,” aka dehydrated veggies, available to folks who want something salty, crunchy, but not as guilt-inducing as those kettle-cooked, thin-sliced, deep-fried potatoes.

Go to any health-food store, bulk-food store, farmers’ market, or health-food aisle in a conventional grocery, and you’re likely to find them: bags of sliced, dehydrated beet, carrot, sweet potato, purple potato, and other “chips.” More imaginative mixes include dried green beans and/or peas. You’d think they’d include dehydrated onion rings and some sea salt, pepper and herbs or spices for flavor, but I guess that’s not in keeping with the continuing desire to make sure “health food” is flavorless so people don’t mistake it for that chemical-laden trash in the snack aisle.

Fortunately, it’s easy enough to pour your bag of dehydrated veggies in a bowl and mix in salt, pepper, and whatever herbs or spices you favor (we like a mix of oregano, thyme, rosemary and basil or a spice mix like curry, garam masala, five-spice mix or ras al-hanout), then rebag the finished mix. You could certainly add any dry spice/herb mix that’s sold as a rub or marinade, any hot pepper mix, or any powdered mix for salad dressing if you’d prefer.

And dehydrated onion dice are available, sparing you the horrors of onion or garlic “salt.” Or you could simply add a bag of onion toppings, available in the produce section of every market. Yummy and crunchy!

Here at Hawk’s Haven, admittedly, the only time I succumb to the lure of these veggies is when our friend Ben and I are about to embark on a road trip. Road food is a sacred ritual with us, enhancing the pleasure of our travels. I’ll get string cheese (OFB is partial to the jalapeno variety), a veggie tray with ready-to-dip carrots, celery, broccoli, cauliflower, and cherry tomatoes, a vat of hummus for dipping, bags of pepitas (roasted pumpkinseeds) and roasted cashews, or maybe pistachios, dried fruit, sliced apples, sliced Cheddar and Triscuits, and yes, a bag of dehydrated veggies. Obviously, we pull out all the stops when we hit the road. It’s vacation time, after all, time for indulgence!

But when we’re not on the road, I try to keep the pepitas and nuts on hand, plus fresh veggies and hummus, plus Triscuits and cheese (an OFB favorite). But dehydrated veggies? That seems like an unnecessary indulgence.

Well, most of the time. But just this past Wednesday, a friend and I ended up at a huge produce market in Amish country that catered to the Amish and Mennonite community in scenic Lancaster County, PA. I had never been to the Shady Maple market before, and didn’t even realize that there was a market, only the famous restaurant that’s been featured in so many Amish romance novels.

“You’ll want to look at the huge bulk-food section!” my friend said, and of course she was right. Clutching my bag of yellow tomatoes to my chest (in case anyone was planning to tackle me and take them), I staggered—I mean, raced—to the enormous area devoted to bulk foods. To my horror, most of the bulk-food section was devoted to candy, candy-making supplies, cookies, and the like. But there were also lots of dehydrated veggies. And that’s where I found it: Okra.

Few people hate anything the way most people hate okra. (We reserve this feeling of loathing for liver, sauerkraut, and rutabagas.) But coming from the South, OFB and I love okra. We especially love fried okra, as long as it’s not mass-produced in little, dried-out, flavorless slices. We understand why “foreigners” would loathe the slime factor that’s synonymous with okra, but well-prepared okta is never slimy, just delicious.

Why Pennsylvania Mennonites would want to buy dehydrated okra as a snack I couldn’t imagine, but from the quantity on display, it was no fluke. And not wanting to pass up what might well be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, I seized a container, much to the horror of my friend. And I refrained from opening it until I got home, when I added just a little salt (we like RealSalt) and stirred it up.

Then OFB and I and our beloved black German shepherd, Shiloh, tried it out. OFB was quite dubious, and who could blame him: dehydrated okra?!! But it was yummy. Light and crispy, with that wonderful okra flavor and not even the faintest hint of slime, nor the calorie- and health hit of fried okra. Yum!!!

Sadly, this market is hours from us, so it’s unlikely that we’ll find ourselves there stocking up on dehydrated okra anytime soon. But it certainly was a delightful surprise! And meanwhile, if you haven’t tried dehydrated veggies as an alternative to potato chips, or have tried them and found that the flavor was lacking, buy a bag, sample some, and add whatever herbs or spices suit your fancy. I promise, they’ll be delicious then!

‘Til next time,

Silence

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