Plant to Plate Series: Vegetable Snacks

When we asked Executive Chef Jamie Simpson his thoughts on transforming fresh vegetables into snacks, his first comment was “I love this space.” In part this is because it dovetails with his commitment to eliminating food waste—and, in part, because it provides even more opportunities to creatively use vegetables from The Chef’s Garden in delicious ways. This led to Chef Jamie’s second comment, which was, “I’m always looking for inspiration.”

Now, here’s the conversation between The Chef’s Garden (TCG) and Jamie Simpson (JS).

TCG: What’s a good example of how you apply a time-tested technique to create veggie snacks?

JS: A prolific example would be the ancient Chinese technique that’s used to make shrimp chips. They turn the shrimp into a paste and then add starch and seasoning. Steam to hydrate, and then dehydrate the mixture before frying. You can do the same thing with peas, with carrots, tomatoes or beets. It’s very simple and can be quite elegant—and snackable.

TSG: What’s another good example?

JS: You can also make vegetable snacks that have a texture like jerky. You can use a freeze-thaw cycle on vegetables like beets and carrots, for example. When they freeze, the water destroys the cellular structure. When they’re thawed, the moisture is purged. You can slice, season and smoke them. This process is pretty scalable and is a good way to turn vegetables into snack foods.

TSG: What’s an interesting vegetable to turn into a snack?

JS: Cassava, also called yuca, among other names. It’s one of the most consumed vegetables, but not in the United States. When you shave it thin, it fries really well. Put the slices in between layers of clarified butter and bake it. After it cools, portion it and then fry it. This gives the cassava a puff pastry texture that can be meaty and fleshy inside, glassy and crunchy outside. I like fried food and find it pleasurable. I put cassava on a pedestal.

You can pair that with salsa macha, a peanut-based chili sauce out of Mexico that is a nutty, mildly spicy condiment that’s deeply umami.

TSG: One more question about vegetable snacks. What about using veggies to make dips?

JS: You can make a broccoli dip that’s so creamy you might think there’s dairy in it, but there isn’t. You first shave green buds from the crown. Sweat the rest with onion and blend it in stock until it’s super smooth. Strain it and you’ve got a velvety puree. Fold in the crown tips and barely cook the mixture. You’ve now got a range of textures in a beautiful green dip that’s lightly studded. It’s deliciously simple, and very dippable.

Watch our recent video Plant to Plate Puffed Kale:

Recipe:

Puffed Kale | Ready in 1 day

Ingredients
Kale, blanched tender 10 oz 280g
Water 1 cup 230 ml
Salt 1 teaspoon 3g
Tapioca Starch 14 oz 400g
Dried Red Onion Powder 1/2 cup 60g
Salt 2 teaspoons 6g
Parmesan Powder 1/2 cup   60g
Dried Black Olive 1/4 cup   20g
Petite Arugula As needed

Preparation

  1. Blend kale, water, and 1 teaspoon of salt until smooth.
  2. Process. In a food processor, add the blended kale and tapioca starch. Process to form a smooth dough.
  3. Shape. Spoon a large 3½ oz (100g) scoop into a 1 gallon (9 ½ x 11 inch ) ziplock or vacuum bag. Do not seal. With a rolling pin or bottle, roll out the dough to a very flat, almost transparent depth. When held up to the light, you should see that there’s a consistent depth.
  4. Steam. Steam the bags at 212ºf for 7 minutes or until the dough is cooked and a darker, almost translucent green color. Shock in ice water.
  5. Dry.  Cut all four edges of the bags off. Carefully remove one side of plastic. Transfer to a drying mat or parchment paper exposed side down. Remove the other side of the plastic film carefully. Dry overnight at 100ºf or below until the dough can crack or shatter  when bent. Break them into one inch or two inch pieces and store them in a sealed container in the pantry until ready to serve.
  6. Fry. Test one and fry at 350ºf for a few seconds until chips have slowed bubbling and grown significantly in the hot oil.
  7. Dust.  Blend the red onion, parmesan, and remaining 2 teaspoons of salt in a spice grinder or clean dry blender. Process until fine. Dust the chips with the powder liberally for full even coverage.

Anecdote: This recipe is shown with kale but can be done with almost any vegetable in the same quantities. Start with this, explore the concept and branch off. Carrots, Tomato, Onion, potato, garlic, or peas anything goes.

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