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Jun 10, 2010 02:55 AM


Dried items can get a bit musty. --- Accordingly, dry heat is sometimes used to revive them before use: whole spices are briefly pan-toasted before being ground, nori is revived over an open flame to make it crisp and fragrant, grain can be pan-toasted, dried fish can be flamed like nori, etc. Improvements in freshness, nuttiness, texture, aroma and flavour are noted.

My question is whether this applies to all dried ingredients. What about dried beans, pasta, porridge oats, flour, nuts, seeds, peanuts, tea, coffee, kombu, chilli, mushrooms, tomatoes, herbs, etc?

I recently tried a light pan-toast on some katsuobushi for miso soup, some cashew nuts for a snack, and some pu'er, saffron and dried lemon slices for a tea. They did seem to perk up. My impression was that light is right here, that the nose-test is 'fragrant but not burned', and that they need to breathe afterwards. One post I found describes oven-roasting of pasta before use:

Any thoughts?

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  1. dried beans -- i wouldn't do, because it will m ake them harder to cook, i think.

    if things are musty because they're old, like nuts, you cannot save them.

    1. Nuts can't be revived; when they taste stale they are....things like flour, oats and tea last a long long time..are you talking a couple of months or a few years. If a couple of months, dried herbs, flour, oats, coffee, dried tomatoes etc. shouldn't get musty. I have some dried chilies that I've had for almost a year..chiles can benefit from a brief toasting prior to use but even if you don't, it should be fine to use without flavor loss.

      1. I agree, musty smelling dried items such as nuts and spices can't be revived by toasting or roasting; they're past their prime. Herbs really don't benefit from toasting, as opposed to spices. Dried beans don't benefit one iota, flavor- or cooking-wise, from toasting.

        Toasting or roasting dried food products before using is nothing new. Grains, nuts, flours and seeds can always be toasted; it brings out a nuttiness and enhances the individual grain flavors; Coffee is roasted upon purchasing, unless you buy green beans to roast at home; citrus halves can be grilled or roasted to add a caramel note. I found the oven roasted pasta link interesting and will try it, and I bet flour used to make pasta could be toasted first as well. I always toast my dried chilies before using.

        I've never thought about toasting saffron, and can't imagine how it would enhance the already powerful scent and warm flavor.

        6 Replies
        1. re: bushwickgirl

          Hi --- yes I just mean application of a little dry heat to items which are dried and in their prime, not raising of the dead by pan-roasting. It might make them worse!

          I've been surprised by the effects on spices and nori sheets, and recently cashews and pine kernels. But this was revival as in 'freshening' rather than real pan roasting. The saffron I tried was older, but it seemed to freshen up by being stirred about a little in a pan which had been taken off the heat. Interestingly, the cashews were going to be fried anyway, but freshening first (then sitting a while) made a big difference to final texture.

          My impression with the items I've tried is that after freshening they go off more quickly, so I'm not planning any batch-freshening.

          A factor could be that we have high humidity where I live.

          1. re: umamihound

            Here are two links on toasting dry pasta (and rice) before boiling ---



            I guess that toasting and saute-ing may be different in effect.

            1. re: umamihound

              That Yelp! post references Rice-A-Roni, which is simply a boxed version of the Armenian pilaf the previous Mrs. O taught me to make. I didn't know how widespread the browning-in-fat procedure was, and was happy to learn about it.

              Actually, the rice does not brown, but parches to a chalky white, which is the cook's signal to dump in the liquid. Living in SoCal as I do now, I can get many different kinds of rice and dozens of brands of pasta as well; the vermicelli I use now to make pilaf is in fact a middle-Eastern brand that I get from a Russian/Latino market!

              1. re: Will Owen

                A link on pre-toasting barley---

                Thanks to Will for the point that "the rice does not brown, but parches to a chalky white ...".

                I recently tried dry-toasting two types of dry pasta before boiling: a standard one and a fancy, rough, bronze-extruded one. For the first it improved the textural al dente effect, but not for the second. Cooking time was the same.

                I tried raw cashews again, toasting-and-airing them before frying in spicy sauce for party nuts --- there's a wow-factor here, a cashew al dente. I can only guess that it re-dessicates or pre-dessicates them in some useful way, before they meet the sauce.

                It's all a surprise to me --- I thought that such ingredients, in their prime, were ready-to-go. (I'm persuaded by posts, though, that it's no use for beans!)

                1. re: umamihound

                  I have toasted plain white rice to a nice nutty brown for pilaf.

                  1. re: bushwickgirl

                    Sounds good! I'll try it. --- Light toast, heavy toast, sauté: all good for different things? As you say it's not new.

                    There's another type of revival (not new either) which seems to punch above its weight: adding a few fresh bits to yesterday's dish or to bought pasta sauce-in-a-jar.

        2. I seem to recall someone toasting the flour before using it to make gravy

          4 Replies
          1. re: ChrisKC

            Browning flour and butter is fairly common when making a roux to thicken gravy.

            1. re: Antithesisofpop

              No, it wasn't a roux. The flour was browned before being made into a roux or slurry, I don't recall which.

              1. re: ChrisKC

                Browned flour can be used in either roux or slurry. It's the only way to get the browned look and taste in a slurry-thickened gravy without using something like Bisto (which I think is largely...browned flour!!). You just have to remember that browning it reduces its thickening abilities, from slightly (light brown) to mostly (very dark).

                1. re: Will Owen

                  I've always appreciated the post where you suggested this. Priceless.