Even Chrissy Teigen is into vegetable powders.
Earlier this year, the popular cookbook author and social media star tweeted an “aha” moment about DIY snacks: She could make her own jalapeño potato chips by drying jalapeños to make an intense homemade powder to toss with homemade or store-bought chips.
It was a revelation that Cane Rosso chef Josh Healy had years ago.
Healy, previously chef de cuisine at the Dallas restaurant Filament who now helms the kitchen at the Sunset Valley restaurant, has used this drying and pulverizing technique with just about every produce item you can imagine. It started as a way to use up ingredients that might otherwise be tossed, such as tomato skins or mushroom stems, but has grown to be an important part of his creative process.
“Chefs are asking, ‘How do we save the planet and be really great chefs at the same time?’” he says. “It reminds you to take pride in produce and is a reminder not to take it for granted.”
For instance, the San Marzano tomato skins from Cane Rosso’s big batches of sauce end up drying in a thin layer on a large, foil-covered sheet pan in the restaurant’s pizza ovens as they are cooling down, sometimes overnight. He then uses a blender to pulverize the skins into a tomato powder that can go on pastas, eggs, pizza, salads or countless other dishes.
To make mushroom powder, he simmers stems and unused mushroom pieces in white wine and herbs before drying them to bring out a rich umami flavor that he loves to sprinkle on a steak or in the restaurant’s Caesar dressing.
At-home dehydrators are widely available online and in kitchen and home goods stores, and they all operate a little differently, so the amount of time it will take you to make these types of powders will vary. But you don’t need another kitchen appliance; if you’re using an oven, just don’t set the heat higher than 200 degrees, and check the drying ingredients often.
“Once you make one, you think, ‘What else can I do?’” Healy says. “Once you figure out a process, you find ways to replicate it.”
At Cow Tipping Creamery next door to Cane Rosso, you’ll find collaborative desserts featuring owner Corey Sorensen’s soft serve with Healy’s citrus and chocolate powders on top.
“There’s no limit to what you can do,” he says.
The most sophisticated powder he makes is with beets. He braises the vegetables with bay leaves, peppercorn and orange juice for about 40 minutes, or until fork-tender, and then refrigerates them overnight. Simmering takes some of the earthiness away while giving the beets a chance to absorb other layers of flavor, he says, and cooling the beets down helps them start to dry out on their own.
Once the beets have simmered, you can add a smoky flavor using a smoker or a smoke gun — a tool used to infuse the flavor of smoke into foods inside a kitchen — or you can stick with liquid smoke or a smoky spice rub, which is what Healy uses. Cut the beets into smaller pieces before drying in a 145-degree oven or a dehydrator.
The smaller the pieces, the faster they dry, so check on them every few hours. When the pieces snap instead of bending, they are ready to be pulverized in a blender and used anywhere you like in your day-to-day cooking. Healy says this beet powder adds a sweet earthiness to his Bolognese sauce.
Green onions, limes, persimmons and smoked purple onion skins are among the plants that Healy has dehydrated, but many cooks start with habaneros, jalapeños and other peppers and chilies to make their own chili powders.
Michael Hultquist, author of “The Spicy Dehydrator Cookbook: 95 Incredible Recipes to Turn Up the Heat on Jerky, Hot Sauce, Fruit Leather and More” (Page Street Publishing, $21.99), is one of those spice lovers who started using a dehydrator to dry peppers and make other spice cabinet staples, including garlic and onion powders. He even makes an all-purpose vegetable powder that is so packed with flavor that it can be used to make instant both.
Using Healy’s instructions, I started saving lemon peels. Once I had a bag of them in the freezer, I thawed them out and put them on a foil-lined baking sheet. After several hours in a 200-degree oven, they darkened and turned leathery. Once they were closer to brittle, I pulled them out of the oven and placed them in the blender.
The machine made a terrible noise as the peels rattled around the plastic container, but within a minute or two, I could see powdered lemon rind collecting at the bottom. Once most of the rind was powdered, I sifted the particles through a mesh strainer to make about 1 cup of a golden powder that adds a nice dust of lemon flavor to vegetables and meats cooked in a saute pan or on a grill. I’ve started adding it to avocados, too.
Might have to make some jalapeño chips next.
All-Purpose Veggie Seasoning
This particular blend of powdered vegetables truly is all-purpose. You can use it as a base for soups and stews, in place of a stock, as a flavor enhancer for many dishes and even as a simple seasoning to sprinkle over your finished foods. It can be customized to your own personal tastes, so feel free to include or omit vegetables and herbs as desired. Speaking of herbs, be sure to use lower temperatures when dehydrating them, and dehydrate them separately from the vegetables. Higher temperatures and a too-long drying time will rob them of their fresh flavor and quality.
— Michael Hultquist
3 medium yellow potatoes, sliced into 1/4-inch pieces
1 pound carrots, peeled and chopped into 1/4-inch pieces
2 jalapeño peppers, sliced into 1/4-inch pieces
3 large red bell peppers, sliced into 1/4-inch pieces
3 large green bell peppers, sliced into 1/4-inch pieces
1 large white onion, sliced into 1/4-inch pieces
3 medium tomatoes, sliced into 1/4-inch pieces
1 fennel bulb, sliced into 1/4-inch pieces
6 celery sticks, sliced into 1/4-inch pieces
6 cloves garlic, sliced into 1/4-inch pieces
1 tablespoon dried oregano
1 tablespoon dried basil
1 tablespoon dried parsley
Bring a pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Add the potatoes and carrots and boil for 5 minutes, or until they are tender. Drain, and plunge the slices into ice water to stop them from cooking.
Spread the potatoes, carrots, jalapeño peppers, bell peppers, onion, tomatoes, fennel, celery and garlic evenly over your dehydrator trays. Since we are working with large amounts, you may need to dry these in batches.
Dry at 130 degrees for 8 to 16 hours. Some ingredients, including garlic, onion and carrot, will dry more quickly than others, so check them after about 8 hours. Remove the ingredients that are completely dried, and add them to a large bowl. Keep drying everything until all of it is dried completely, and add everything to the large bowl.
For the herbs, if you’d like to start with fresh ingredients and dry them yourself, remove the stems and dehydrate the leaves at 95 degrees for about 4 to 8 hours, depending on your amounts and humidity. Do not over-dry the herbs, as you can rob them of their fresh flavors. You’ll only need enough for 1 tablespoon each, so save the rest if you do a large batch. Add the oregano, basil and parsley to the bowl with the dried vegetables.
Next, add the vegetable mixture in small batches to a food processor and process to form a powder. Sift through a strainer into another bowl and keep processing until it is all in powder form. You may have some residual chunks left, which you can keep or break apart with a mortar and pestle. Store the powder in airtight containers and use as a seasoning. You can also use this as an alternative to stock by adding 1 tablespoon per 1 cup of water. Makes 2 1/2 cups.
— From “The Spicy Dehydrator Cookbook: 95 Incredible Recipes to Turn Up the Heat on Jerky, Hot Sauce, Fruit Leather and More” by Michael Hultquist (Page Street Publishing, $21.99)
Easy as 2, 2, 2 Broth Mix
This vegan broth mix from “Bold Flavored Vegan Cooking: Healthy Plant-Based Recipes With a Kick” by Celine Steen (Page Street Publishing, $21.99) uses two of the kinds of powders that Austin-based chef Josh Healy makes at his restaurant, Cane Rosso: mushroom and tomato. You’ll have to buy it in a spice store or the bulk section of an upscale market if you don’t plan to make your own. The author calls this a 2, 2, 2 mix because the quantity of almost every ingredient is identical: 2 teaspoons of each, except for the nutritional yeast. To make broth out of this mix, use 1 teaspoon for every cup of water for a mellow broth or 1 tablespoon for every cup of water for a flavor-packed broth.
— Addie Broyles
1 cup nutritional yeast
2 teaspoons onion powder
2 teaspoons garlic powder
2 teaspoons fine regular or smoked sea salt, or a combination of both
2 teaspoons sweet or smoked paprika, or a combination of both
2 teaspoons Italian seasoning or other mix of dried herbs of choice
2 teaspoons dried tomato powder (optional)
2 teaspoons dried shiitake powder or porcini powder (optional)
Ground rainbow or other peppercorn, to taste
Place the nutritional yeast, onion powder, garlic powder, salt, paprika, Italian seasoning, tomato powder (if using), shiitake powder (if using) and peppercorn in a large Mason jar. Screw the lid on tightly, and shake to thoroughly combine. Store at room temperature or in the refrigerator for up to 1 month. Makes 1 1/4 cups.
— From “Bold Flavored Vegan Cooking: Healthy Plant-Based Recipes with a Kick” by Celine Steen (Page Street Publishing, $21.99)