beautiful fresh vegetables and fruits, their kaleidoscopic colors, their squat, bulbous, and stringy shapes, and their deep-earthed or floral scents, make me woozy. extolling their many virtues, urging you to eat them, treading that fine line between encouragement and pushiness, i try not to sound too much like your mother ….
but I’ve sworn to tell the truth, and the complete story is not all health & happiness.
fruits and vegetables have their dark side.
unless you grow your own (and even if you do I suppose) those colorful containers of nature’s goodness may be hiding some pretty nasty insect-defenses… yes, poison, people…and as a general principle, and one I recommend, it’s desirable to avoid consuming poisons wherever possible.
Below are two lists. They’re in alphabetical order, so it’s important to note that the top three on the Avoid List don’t reflect the 3 worst offenders. The worst are: Spinach – Strawberries – and Celery (in that order.)
The lists aren’t inclusive of all fruits and veggies of course. They’re only meant to identify the ones most apt and least apt to have high pesticide levels. (Results were obtained from a sampling of produce from the across the US.)
12 Foods - MOST Pestidicdes
- Bell Peppers
- Imported Grapes
- Red Raspberries
Keeping our herbs fresh longer.
It’s been a long time since we had a little trivia from in and around spree’s kitchen. So here’s one for you (and there’s a stack of others in the wings.)
Basil hates the cold. There’s no softening the truth of it. Turns all black and soon slimy if put in the vegetable bin of the refrigerator. If it can’t be in the sun, basil likes being out on your counter, in the warmth of your kitchen. Give the stems a fresh cut, put them in a glass of tepid water, cover them with a plastic bag or cloche and they’ll last for days and days. They may be so happy they’ll put down roots.
If you won’t be able to use your basil up before it starts to wither, you can puree it with olive oil, spoon into ice-cube trays and freeze. Once frozen, spill them into a zipping freezer bag where they’ll be happy for ages.
On the other hand, Cilantro (aka fresh coriander) doesn’t seem to mind the cold of the fridge. But it does still prefer its stems in water. Give the stems a fresh trim, place them in a glass of water, cover them loosely with a plastic bag and place on a shelf in your fridge. They’ll be happy for a good week. (Possibly more.) Parsley (when asked) prefers the same treatment as cilantro. If you can’t decide what to do with all that parsley within the week – try turning it into salsa verde! So easy to make, and it’ll freshen up just about anything you drizzle it on. Sage will be happy in a refrigerated & covered glass of water too. Best to change their water every couple days.
With Easter 10 days away, now seems like a good time to talk
Separating whites from yolks - contrary to what you watched your mother do, it’s not the best idea to separate using the shell. Why? Eggs can transport that nasty nasty salmonella bacteria – where would you see those little uglies lurking? yup. The shell.
A better (safer) way – there are several:
1. Use your (clean) hands – break the egg into the palm of your hand, gradually open your fingers enough to allow the white to slip between them into the bowl beneath, while the yolk stays put. 10-year-old Sicily especially loved this method! It’ll work even better when her hands are 12. Wash your hands well after. I know, not YOU, but somebody out there’s going to forget, lick their fingers and get real ugly-sick.
2. Break the whole egg into a bowl. Using a slotted spoon, dip into the bowl, lifting the yolk and gently transferring to a separate bowl. (Don’t try to do this with multiple eggs at once, unless … well, just don’t.)
3. Use a slotted tool specifically made for this purpose. There are a number of them on the market if that’s your pick. From $6.00 to something ridiculously more. While on topic, I must include this : years ago my sister-in-law bought me an oogley critter-head, cup-shaped, made of pottery. It has a rather wide frowning slit for a mouth. Break the egg inside, tip him over a bowl and he drools egg whites.
I alternate between using my hands and the ogre. My psychiatrist thinks I was repressed as a child and wasn’t allowed to play with my food enough. But honestly, who DID? Good news: I’m on meds. They’re helping. ;) Would love to hear your method.
The perfect hard-boiled egg -
Why we love our cast iron pans – they’re one of the most affordable pans on the market ~ they conduct & maintain heat incredibly well ~ are great for high-heat situations such as frying and searing ~ working on stove-top or oven, gas, electric or induction, even on the grill ~ they go camping with us ~ they’ve been around forever and have a certain nostalgic charm ~ and when cared for properly, they’re virtually indestructible, non-stick, and something your someday-grandkids will love to have.
Caring for the cast iron pans we love – to clean stubborn food remnants: SALT & a bit of OIL! (Don’t use soap.) Kosher salt (Morton’s is cheap, coarse and great for this purpose.) With the pan still warm, add ½ to 1 cup of coarse kosher salt and a touch (maybe 1 teaspoon) vegetable oil. Using a rag or folded dishcloth you reserve for this purpose, scour the pan. Rinse with hot water and dry immediately. (You can clean up with far less salt if your pan isn’t coated with food. A little salt and paper towel may do the trick.)
Seasoning the pans we love – nothing could be simpler. Rub a light coat of vegetable oil into the clean pan, about a Tablespoon for a larger skillet (flaxseed or grapeseed work especially well), starting with the inside, with anything remaining on the cloth continuing to the outside also; place in a low-temp oven (say 250°F for ½ to 1 hour). The heat will help the pan absorb the oil. A well-seasoned pan will perform better (especially as a non-stick surface) and will greatly resist rust that iron is otherwise prone to.
It’s snowing big fluffy rabbits here today. Went to bed with rain pouring thunderously on our roof so loud we could barely hear one another, but woke to 5 inches of pristine white silence covering our patio. So, out of exhilarated appreciation for the quiet beauty of this day, I’m keeping it white.
Have you ever enjoyed buttermilk, freshly bottled from a local dairy? When I was girl, my grandfather (we called him Big Papa and he was indeed bigger than life in many ways) had a dairy farm on the coast in Washington state. Sweet-faced Jersey cows, each one with a name, would line up in the milking barn twice a day. One of these days I’ll share some stories of what life on that farm was like. It was so much MORE than a dairy farm, but I don’t want to give it all away in a little Spreenkle. I remember though, on the tile counter of the old farm house, sat bottles of milk, their skinny necks filled with the sweet cream that had risen. And I remember too the taste of fresh buttermilk our grandma would make. And occasionally a treat. A milkshake maker, the color green of the day, with its cloth-covered cord and its dented steel container would be pulled from its cupboard and set on the counter. Into it went fresh, chilled whole-buttermilk and orange sherbet. Whirrrr! Pour! Straw! Slurp! Pure deliciousness!
It’s not easy to find a truly wonderful buttermilk in our markets. But we can Make it! And it’ll be wonderful. I’m not talking here about the “trick” of adding vinegar or lemon juice to milk to simulate the real thing when we’ve run out. Read more
While we’re on the subject of onions, and since there’s clearly so much more fun to be had with them…
Did you know that if you slice rings from an onion – red onions are especially good for this – and submerge them in a nice icy bath for maybe 10 – 15 minutes, they will have crisped up beautifully and lost the bite and bit of harshness they have when eaten raw? (Drain them and dry with paper towels.) This works especially well when combining in a salad. I highly recommend it!
Did you know that if you submerge little pearl onions in boiling water for a mere 30 seconds and then drop them into a colander, they’ll shed their skins with very little help from you? You can then go on to caramelize or saute them or whatever you fancy doing with your pearls.
By the way, I gathered up all the onion tips others so generously shared and dropped them into the “spreenkles” page above.
Sometimes when I go missing for a few days from here it’s because I had a plan…that plan began with a recipe, or merely a shopping list of ingredients…I proceeded to preparations and photos along the way…the final, loving attention given to the dish’s culmination…and then I move on to the part with the fork. Sometimes I’ve even started the writing before I’ve raised my fork. And then I make a disappointing discovery at the table. It tastes fine – and fine just isn’t good enough to share with the lovely likes of you. And so I move on to another plan and go through a similar process, sometimes even trying to refine before finally giving up, cutting losses and moving on once again. I may still come back to it later. But you only read about the success stories around here. I want to be sure you know though, just in the interest of full disclosure, that there are, at times, rather pathetic flops or meals just fine. So if you don’t hear from me for days, presume that I’m going through another one of those stretches. I like to play with food, as many of us do, and sometimes messes just happen.
But this time, it could be several days before you hear from me because family’s coming, and my arms and my heart will be fully occupied. And there just may be a few happy tears. Onions or no onions.
Have a colorful & fun weekend!
And maybe a few tulips on your table…
See you in a few days!
p.s. I know JUST what I’m posting next and I think you’re going to LOVE it! I already used my fork on it!
A few helpful things to know about onions and our tears.
a) cold onions won’t make you nearly so teary. Try refrigerating onions 30 minutes before you need to cut them.
b) onions cut with santoku knives (it is said) are less likely to make you cry because of the knife’s extra-fine edge. What does that have to do with the price of butter? A finer blade is more apt to slice between the onion cells as opposed to through them — and through them is what causes them to burst and release the chemical that makes us weep.
c) I’ve tried this, and it’s possible that placebo effect would account for some of its success, but I’ve found it helpful. Try slicing an onion directly next to the sink, with the cold water running. Why this seems to work could have something to do with the negative ions released from the cascading water – much like what takes places (on a far grander scale of course) in waterfalls – the negative ions present in the area around a waterfall result in the peaceful sort of happiness we experience when we are too.
If spreenkles are entirely new to you, you can see where they were introduced here. You’ll see them accumulating in the page with the same name in the header above.
It was pointed out in a recent post on kitchen scales that a cup of flour should weigh 5 ounces…that takes all the guess work out of measuring your flour and a good part of the mess out of baking. But how about sugar? Brown sugar, light or dark, should weigh 7 ounces. Same as white sugar! Kind of cool if you’ve ever wondered how tightly to pack your sugar.
Two spreenkles for the price of one today – did you know you can make your own brown sugar? For light brown sugar, add 1 Tablespoon molasses. For dark brown sugar, add 2. Mix well, store air-tight.