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Dry This at Home

Owen Dugan
Posted: March 16, 2004

Chefs Roxanne Klein and Charlie Trotter's new (non) cookbook explores raw food and the wines that enhance it.
Recipe: Bleeding Heart Radish Ravioli with Yellow Tomato Sauce
The Right Wines With Raw Food
Roxanne Klein and Charlie Trotter explore a culinary frontier
Wine Spectator Menus
More than 150 wine-friendly recipes, including recommended wine matches

The dehydrator is probably the most crucial appliance in the raw foods kitchen, and can be very useful for nonraw eaters too. These affordable machines are ideal for making the dishes in Raw, or for creating snacks and preserved ingredients such as apple chips, dried tomatoes -- even jerky -- around the house.

How do they work? Dehydrators give you control over the removal of water from foods so that bacteria and mold will not grow on them. It is preservation through slow drying. Trays are loaded with food, the machine is sealed, and a fan blows warm air through the chamber to remove the moisture. Drying times depend on a number of variables, especially the amount of moisture in the food. Expect apples to dry in as few as 7 hours, and grapes or figs to take as long as 30.

Important features to look for are nonstick trays, which are reusable and easy to clean; a large fan and motor for consistent circulation; and an adjustable thermostat. The thermostat is vital to raw foodists, since they don't want to cause the enzyme breakdown that they believe occurs above 118° F (many dehydrators go much higher than that). Temperature control is important regardless, since too much heat cooks the outside, sealing the moisture in and defeating the purpose.

Models vary in size and price. Klein uses an Excalibur brand dehydrator at home -- expect to pay between $130 and $160 for one. But be careful: A common side effect is an addiction to drying everything edible.

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