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A place to catch bits of trivia, little crumbs from in and around the kitchen…..

8.Pesticide levels in the most common fruits and vegetables. Those with the most, those with the least. For the two lists, see Spreenkle #8 here. The three worst offenders spinach, strawberries, & celery

7. Keeping our fresh herbs fresh longer.

Basil hates the cold. 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.

Cilantro on the other hand 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.

Most other herbs (and certainly all the woodier ones) can be wrapped lightly in a wet (but not sopping) paper towel, placed in a plastic bag and kept in the vegetable bin of your fridge. (Many of these can also be dried successfully.)

6. Eggs!

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 – 

Never ever fails me. Put eggs in a pot of cold water – the pot should be large enough for the eggs to sit in one layer on the bottom. Bring water to boil and then immediately turn off the burner. Allow the eggs to sit, covered, in the pan of hot water for exactly 15 minutes. Remove eggs from water and set out on a towel to cool for 2 minutes. At this point, you can remove their shells.  (Or, if you’ll be using them for Easter, either dye them straightaway, or put them back in the fridge to dye later.)

Peeling a hard-cooked egg – freshest eggs peel best. If you have trouble removing the shell, inserting the tip of a wet teaspoon under an edge of the shell and running it up under it can help.

I suppose we can eggs again another day, but that’ll do for now. This is just a spreenkle after all.

5.  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 virtuallyindestructible, 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, but with anything remaining on the cloth continue to the outside also; then 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.

4.  to make your own Home-made Buttermilk ~

Sterilize a mason jar or glass milk bottle.  Combine ½ cup buttermilk, ¼ teaspoon kosher salt, 2 cups of milk (whole milk of course is quite wonderful).  Stir well. Pour into glass container, cover,  and leave on the counter in a warm room for 24 to 36 hours. When done, the buttermilk will have thickened and will coat the sides of the jar when tipped.     NOTE:  (Proportions are always the same (4 : 1, milk to buttermilk – so make as much or as little as you like at a time. It will keep refrigerated for 2 weeks at least. The bacteria in old buttermilk isn’t as active, and can even die in time, so using a fresher starter will result in a new batch in less time.)

3.  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.

2.  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.

Tips from readers on onion tears:

Toy Kitchen Chef suggested a wet kitchen towel next to her cutting board.  By committee and a good bit of inspiration from Chica Andaluza, it was agreed that if we allowed the water to run in the sink, it would be at a dribble’s pace and into a bucket with which we would later water our olive trees or fill the pig’s trough. Kathryn at Kiwsparks suggested we shower with our onions, which we all thought was a stroke of genius (par the course for Kathryn.) Carolyn of Portland suggested we merely open the back door to the rain, the incessant rain. Anastasia opted to turn the job over to someone who wears contacts. Kiki came up with a novel idea that she swears works – keep a good sip of water in your mouth through the entire task. Really! How do people think of things like this? Dawn takes home the bizarro award (and I say that in the most affectionate way!) – she says that if you keep your tongue out while peeling and chopping, you may cry with a tongue ache (or humiliation, which she didn’t mention) but you won’t be crying because of the fumes!  Smidge & Colleen referenced goggles! Onion-peelers goggles! Who knew! Natalie avoids onions and opts for leeks – yet more genius. And Greg (aka Rufus) reminds us that a good cry is therapeutic.  So just maybe onions bring us closer to what we all secretly desire anyway…to have ourselves a good old-fashioned cry now and then.

1.   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 sugarBrown 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.