(Oct. 15) Allen Susser, owner-chef of Chef Allen’s in Aventura, Fla., started using dusts and crusts in his tropical, palm tree cuisine for added texture and flavor — to take the natural flavors of fruits and vegetables out of their normal context. He has received national recognition for his culinary skills, including a James Beard Best Chef award. He wrote the books “New World Cuisine and Cookery,” “The Great Citrus Book” and “The Great Mango Book.”

Produce Concepts asked him to explain to describe dusts and crusts.

Q: How do you differentiate a dust from a crust?

A: A dust is very fine, like a ground spice. A crust is a rougher grind and usually not one but two or three different combinations of spices as well as the ingredient you’re working with.

Q: How do you make a dust and what are some applications for it?

A: I recommend using a dehydrator to dry whatever you’re working with, then pulverize it. I’ve made dusts of tomatoes, corn, spinach, calabaza, pineapple, orange, lemon, mango and mushrooms. When you sprinkle it onto something, you get the taste, then it disappears, but you appreciate it. For example, put corn dust on a salad of heirloom tomatoes and celery sprouts with extra virgin olive oil. With the corn dust, you have the natural sweetness and aroma of corn as you eat it, and then you ask, “Where did that come from?” The dust could be invisible or very pronounced. You can use dust as a plate garnish or do a combination of dust next to oil on the side. Customers can dip the heirloom tomato into oil, then dust, and it would be a pronounced flavor. It works in the overall presentation, as well as allowing someone to have fun at the table mixing ingredients and tasting them.

Q: What’s your favorite vegetable to work with?

A: Mushrooms turn out to be one of my favorite utility dusts. I like the variety, like dried shiitakes, porcinis and truffles. With pompano fish, for example, I dust the fish with porcini dust rather than flour. It helps brown the fish, and as it cooks, the moisture rehydrates the mushroom. It’s a wonderful texture and crust going on at the same time.

Q: Describe a crust in more detail.

A: For a porcini crust, dehydrate the mushrooms, grind them and add in a little toasted fennel seed. With the two together, don’t pulverize them to where it’s very fine, but there should be small chunks in a variety of sizes. It gives a better texture. Texture increases eye and mouth appeal. I like a lot of texture on the plate.

Q: What tips would you give others for using dusts and crusts?

A: Use the sensitivity of balancing flavors, aromas, acidity and tartness. Balance the same way you’d balance a normal dish to make sure you get all the flavors that would hit the palate. Think of the palate, not just the visual dust on the edge.