$16 a pound for mushrooms? Even lovers of the earthy, savory treats would scoff at that price, especially with more Americans cutting their budgets and many struggling to get by on unemployment.
It’s possible, my friends, all thanks to dried foods. These foods, reconstituted and used in a variety of dishes, may be a smarter way to create great meals than using all fresh ingredients, especially if you’re committed to lowering your grocery bill.
The Dried Price is Just Right
When used to add flavor, soaked, simmered or mixed dried mushrooms, chiles and fruits can be a healthy addition to your diet, and cost much less than the fresh variety.
The intense and nutty flavor of a morel mushroom, for example, can cost you about $15.99 a pound, according to produce importer Melissa’s, if they’re even available at your local grocery or gourmet foods store. That compares with about $9.50 for an equivalent amount of dried mushrooms, according to Melissa’s spokesman Robert Schueller.
Fresh Porcini mushrooms cost about $14.99 a pound, compared to about $8.50 for an equivalent amount of dried porcinis.
If You Like it Hot
If you’re a sucker for serious spice, some of the hottest chiles are most readily available in dried form. Fresh Savina Ruby Hot Chiles, for example, cost about $7.99 a pound fresh – but they’re extremely hard to find. Dry Ruby Hots, on the other hand, will run you about $5.30 for an equivalent amount, and they’re available year-round. And whether they’re fresh or dried, a little goes a long way.
At the Summer Fancy Food Show held in New York by the National Association for the Specialty Food Trade in June, Melissa’s used one-quarter of a dried Savina Ruby Hot pepper for a gallon of creamy dip that was plenty hot. The package of dried peppers even urges consumers to use rubber gloves when handling them.
The Best Benefits
Not only can these dried soup and sauce ingredients cost significantly less than what they’d cost fresh, they won’t go shrink, wrinkle or mold in the fridge like their fresh counterparts, so you’re less likely to waste money on produce that can perish in the fridge within days.
In addition, many vegetables and fruits often found dried are only available fresh for a small window of time during the year. Savina Ruby Hots, for example are only in season in July while the dry ones are available year-round.
The texture of reconstituted dried mushrooms, chiles and other fruits and vegetables can be a bit different than fresh options, so they may be better used for their flavor over their texture. Instead of sautéing dried, reconstituted mushrooms as a side dish, you might consider using them in a soup or pasta sauce. And to add a potent punch to a simmer sauce, drop in a dried chile or two.
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