TROPICAL NUT CHEWS
Travel season has arrived! Have you packed your nutty nibbles to tide you over until you reach your destination? Whether it’s a road trip, a cruise, or a flight to some exotic destination, it’s great to have some tasty travel companions–nutty companions, that is. Delicious, nutty and fruity companions make those nibbles even better.
I never travel without packing nutty little treats in my purse, my suitcase, and my carry-on. They sustain me when food is a long way off, and all I need is just a few bites to quell the hunger pangs or feel the need for a little pick-me-up.
This unique recipe is one you can prepare months or weeks in advance, pop into plastic zipper-lock baggies, and off you go. These yummy Tropical Nut Chews can travel unrefrigerated, even in extremely dry or very moist climates.
A delicious sweet treat that spotlights fruits and nuts, this tropical confection can be baked in the oven or dried in the dehydrator. Baking permits a bit more spontaneity, while dehydrating requires planning ahead for the approximately 24 hours it takes to finish in the dehydrator. Either method will bring you a delightful, chewy cookie/confection with the irresistible fruity flavors of the islands. The unique feature of the nutty treats is their ability to travel well without refrigeration for up to two months. You can take them camping, backpacking, and even globe trotting.
TROPICAL NUT CHEWS
Yield: approximately 50 three-inch squares
8 to 10 ounces unsweetened dried pineapple, cut into 1-inch pieces
6 ounces dried unsweetened mango, cut into 1-inch pieces or Turkish apricots, chopped
4 cups dried, unsweetened grated coconut
2 cups roasted, unsalted peanuts
1 cup roasted unsalted cashews, coarsely chopped
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
8 ripe bananas
1 1/2 cups pitted dates, cut in half
1/3 cup peeled and chopped fresh ginger
1. Line 3 jellyroll pans with parchment paper or 3 dehydrator trays with Teflex sheets and set them aside.
2. Place the pineapple and mango pieces into a large bowl. Cover the fruit with boiling water and set aside to soak for 15 to 20 minutes.
3. Combine the coconut, peanuts, cashews, and cinnamon in an extra large bowl and set aside.
4. Place half the soaked pineapple and mango pieces into the food processor, along with half the bananas, half the dates, and half the ginger. Process until smooth and creamy and transfer to the bowl with the nuts.
5. Process the remaining bananas, dates, ginger, and soaked pineapple and mango until almost completely pureed. Avoid over-processing. The small bits of pineapple, mango, dates, and ginger add pleasing texture and tangy flavor. Transfer the mixture to bowl and mix well to distribute all the ingredients evenly.
6. TO BAKE THE TROPICAL NUT CHEWS, preheat the oven to 200 degrees. Spoon the fruit mixture onto the prepared jellyroll pans and press with the back of a spoon to spread the mixture, forming large rectangles that cover 3/4ths of each baking pan. Use a flatware knife to score the fruit mixture into 2- or 3-inch squares.
7. Bake for 3 hours, then, turn the chews by inverting the slabs onto another piece of parchment. Bake for another 1 1/2 hours, or until well dried. Cool completely and break into pieces. Tropical Fruit Chews can be stored in heavy-duty zipper-lock plastic bags and kept at room temperature for up to two months. For longer storage, refrigerate them for up to 6 months.
8. TO DEHYDRATE THE TROPICAL NUT CHEWS, spread the fruit mixture onto 3 Teflex-lined dehydrator trays, score into 2-or 3-inch pieces with a flatware knife, and dehydrate at 115 degrees for about 12 hours. Invert the slabs onto the open dehydrator trays and dehydrate about 8 to 10 hours longer, or until thoroughly dried. Stored in heavy-duty zipper-lock plastic bags, the chews will keep at room temperature for up to 6 months.
NOTE: If you prefer to use fresh coconut in place of the dried, purchase a mature coconut that is free of cracks and feels heavy with water. To crack it open, hold the coconut in the palm of your hand with the eyes facing either side. Hold the coconut over the kitchen sink and use the blunt end of a heavy-duty cleaver or chef’s knife to pound all around the perimeter of an imaginary line that goes through the center, between the eyes and the stem end. Turn the coconut as you pound. As soon as the coconut begins to crack, discard the coconut water into the sink. Use a small, firm paring knife to separate the coconut meat from the shell. Place the coconut meat into the food processor, in batches, and pulse chop it into a coarse meal or coarsely shred the pieces by hand. You will have about 4 to 5 cups of freshly grated coconut meat.