How many times does a recipe, or food idea seem like a great idea … until you read the final entry: Place in the fridge for at least two hours before serving. Groan! I can’t solve every instance of this mood-killing statement, but I can help when you are working with blending dehydrated spices or herbs into your meal.
I received a set of dip mixes as a gift. These particular mixes are from Epicure Selections, a Canadian company known for great products without nasty additions. The 3 Onion Dip Mix I used for this article has the following ingredients: Onion, Chives, Scallions and Herbs. I can live with that list in my food. These seem pricey, but they go a long, long way. (See the tip at the bottom to make your own mix.)
Generally, you add the mix to cream cheese or sour cream … and wait. But think about why you wait. Of course, there is the flavor-blending part of storing food, and that cannot be rushed. But that is not the most important reason to wait. These are dried onions and herbs. Mix them into cream cheese, spread and eat, and it is pretty crunchy, and most of the flavor is not available. When you leave the mix in the cream cheese or sour cream, the water from the base ingredients migrate into the dried food, softening and releasing the flavor.
That was my aha! moment. I wanted to use this gift. I knew it was good food, and I love onion dips and spreads. But I also cook in the moment almost all the time. I’m hungry and I want great food in minutes. Two hours from now, I many not even want onion spread or dip.
Why not rehydrate the dry mix, and then add it to the base? It worked. It worked very well. So, here is what you can do when you are faced with dried ingredients that you want to use now.
Put the spice mix in a microwaveable container large enough to hold everything you intend to add to the final product. For example, if you are making ½ cup of dip, you will want a container that holds more than ½ cup so you have room for mixing. Add enough water to just cover the dried herb, and microwave for 20-30 seconds. Voila! Hydrated spices. Hint: If you added too much water and there is loose water on top, before stirring, hold the solids back with a fork or knife, and tip the extra water into the sink. You may lose a little flavor, but you want the spice mix damp, not wet.
Stir the now hydrated spice mix to make sure it is moist, and add the rest of the ingredients. For this example, I started with a skimpy 1 tablspoon of the mix, and added about the same amount of water. (I don’t measure, I take it from the tap into the bowl — that’s why I have the tip for getting extra water out. I don’t always hit the perfect amount.) I added about 2 tablespoons of light cream cheese, and I was ready to spread the mixture.
The sandwich shown here is nothing but the above spread, and thinly sliced cucumbers on a grainy bread. A sandwich doesn’t get much more simple, and the whole process took me less than five minutes, but this was delicious.
Make your own: There is no reason you cannot create your own mix from the dried spices in your cupboard. Rehydrate the mix to bring out the flavor, and you can have your own custom dip or spread in minutes.
Consider adding dehydrated, minced onion and garlic, or vegetable flakes, or dried lemon and orange peel from the bulk store to your collection of spices. See what you can find to make your own signature dip mix.