Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Better Than Croutons?

The world is clearly divided into two camps: sweet lovers and salty, crunchy (and fat) lovers. I admit that I fall into the second category. Chocolate and other sweets are nice to have but please don't tempt me with a really big bag of potato chips or a basket of crispy onion rings.

Or a salty, garlicky, buttery crouton. I can't bear it. I used to make them with leftover baguettes but they're pretty much gone from my diet these days. And, it's such a shame because they're perfect on salads and as soup toppers.

But, I've been finding some very cool, quite unusual replacements for them. All offer that satisfying crunch the savory fan adores, but with very different flavors. Let me introduce you to three:

Freeze Dried Corn

How smart is the new Savory Spice Shop in Encinitas to put these on the check out counter as samples. You can't not try them and once you do, well, you're hooked. Yes, they're little corn kernels, but the process of freeze drying them has rendered them light and airy and sweet as corn on the cob. They're sort of the whole kernel version of popcorn. Not only are they perfect for scattering on a salad or over soup, but they mix and match beautifully with toasted nuts and dried fruit for a trail mix or you can add them to corn muffins or corn bread or other baked goods.

Roasted Coconut Chips

Credit Mom with finding these while we were shopping at her neighborhood Trader Joe's. I've never tasted anything like these dry-roasted slips of coconut. The flavor is enhanced with just a bit of salt and sugar, fresh coconut milk, and coconut juice. I enjoyed a sprinkling of them last night on a bowl of lentils. The crunch complemented the creamy texture of the dal. But they are salad and soup worthy--not to mention ice cream or, again, trail mix.

Moong Dal

If lentils could be converted into Rice Krispies, these little puffed-up gems would snap, crackle, and pop. I randomly picked up this snack bag at Himalayan Bazaar, a little gem of an Indian market in La Mesa next door to sister restaurant Himalayan Cuisine (more about the market in next week's Local Bounty on the San Diego Magazine website). In fact, I can imagine making "dal krispy" treats with these. They're crunchy and just a bit salty and oh so light.

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