End-of-summer pestilence

It seems to happen in late summer, yearly: an infestation of fruit flies. It’s just a fact of life. I usually just use my homemade traps and I’ve gotten rid of them in short order.

I was (as always) glad to know that I’m not alone with this end-of-summer event, but surprised to see a test on the effectiveness of homemade traps. Even though I’m pretty satisfied with my method, curious minds must investigate the possibility that someone has built a better (mouse) trap.

From Kitchn (one of my favorites) comes a test of various do-it-yourself traps. What surprised me was which one was more effective.

Frankly, I’ve been lazy and simply put out the cider vinegar mix in any small container even without the funnel or the lid with hold punched in the top and it still works, and add to that, for only once a year I don’t want lids with holes poked around the kitchen! In my simple open-container method (yes, lazy) the dish soap seems to really help advance the mass slaughter.

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Tuna, lovely tuna!

 

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those lovely tuna medallions

Wow! While skulking through Harris Teeter supermarket I noticed that they had beautiful tuna “medallions” for only $6.99 per pound.  The chunks are not a problem for me since if it were steaks I’d need to cut them up anyway. The main thing is the quality and the price. It’s time replenish my supply of tuna confit.

Since my last post on tuna confit, the recipe from that post, which was from Fine Cooking, I’ve been perusing sous vide recipes and have come up with some modifications for the seasonings, and the method. I’m using the method from ChefSteps this time around (with a little modification of seasoning and cooking time and temperature). One modification was to infuse the oil with some additional herbs suggested in other recipes, and then straining/filtering the oil before packing the confit (in Mason jars).

Tuna Confit (2017)

Ingredients

  • tuna (about 2 pounds)
  • salt and sugar (4:1 ratio) for the dry cure/dry brine
  • extra virgin olive oil, about 4 cups (enough to cover) the tuna

Infused oil ingredients

  • extra virgin olive oil (about 4 cups)
  • Turkish bay leaves (2 or 3 depending on size)
  • sprig of thyme
  • sprig of rosemary
  • smashed garlic cloves (about 3)
  • black peppercorns (about 2 teaspoons)
  • red pepper flakes (just a dash)
  • zest of one lemon (removed with a vegetable peeler)

Preparation

  • Infused oil:
    • Place the oil in a slow cooker or multifunction pot on the warm setting and add all seasonings.
    • Allow oil to infuse for several hours (a temperature of about 150°F) then cool the oil to room temperature.
  • Tuna:
    • dry cure/dry brine the tuna for about 30 minutes then rinse, transfer to plate and let it dry.
    • put the tuna into 500  mL jars, pouring oil around each piece, adding enough to cover the tuna in the jar
    • cook in a multifunction pot on the warm setting for two hours
    • cool tuna and refrigerate

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When I tasted the oil, the flavors were a bit strong so I diluted it with an additional cup of extra virgin olive oil before using it to pack the tuna. Since the oil had lemon zest added during the infusion–I didn’t add lemon zest to the cans as the ChefSteps recipe had suggested. I think that would have been just too much lemon for even me–and I do like lemon!

My “medallions” were a just little thicker than the usual tuna steak so I allowed them just a bit of extra time with the dry cure (about 45 minutes) before rinsing and allowing them to air dry. There was a big difference in the firmness after that short period of dry cure.

After rinsing and patting dry with paper towels, I left them sitting on parchment paper for about 30 minutes to air dry, turning them over just once, then packing them in 500 mL Ball/Mason jars, adding oil to the bottom of the jar, and then after each piece of tuna

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The ChefSteps recipe suggested cooking the tuna at 113°F  for 1 hour and 30 minutes. My experience has been that, even though I love sashimi, I like my cooked fish cooked just a bit more. Part of the reason for making confit is not to eat it immediately but to be able to keep it longer as my replacement for “canned tuna”–so I’ve opted for a higher temperature–actually a lot higher temperature–more in keeping with the original recipe.

The jars of tuna in olive oil were put into the slow cooker on the warm setting which should give me about 160°F. I know that’s not going to be as lush and velvety as if it were cooked at a lower temperature. But preservation is part of the objective here (I mean, that was certainly the original goal of confit). I want this to last (in the fridge) for a bit.

Jar size was a bit of a problem–three of the medallions were simply too large to be sure that they would remain submerged under the oil, even allowing for shrinkage with cooking. Since the jars were going to be sealed, I didn’t want to take the chance of having to open them to add more oil. So–extra room in the jar with only two medallions in each.

No matter how this turns out it will be hands down better than most canned tuna (unless you spring for the really expensive stuff) and a lot easier than doing it on the stovetop or even in the oven.

 

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dry curing

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air drying after curing

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starting with oil in the jar

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add tuna

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leaving some headroom in the jars

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it’s tuna confit!

 

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4 Ways to protect ourselves from arsenic in rice — YayYay’s Kitchen

Arsenic in rice–Four ways to protect ourselves and our families

via 4 Ways to protect ourselves from arsenic in rice — YayYay’s Kitchen

Crystallized Honey

Since I’ve been posting about my bees, I want to share/reblog this post for all the honey fans out there.

Zeebeeman's Blog

2 Honey

My friend Jannine brought me a jar of her crystallized honey for the holidays. It is so good!  It got me to do a bit of research on why some honey crystallizes and some doesn’t.  First of all, it does not mean that it has “gone bad”. Honey has a very low moisture content which deters bacteria and yeast, so it rarely if ever spoils. It turns out that the main reason honey will crystallize is due to the proportion of fructose and glucose, the two main sugars in honey. And this comes from the source of the honey. Honey that is high in glucose  ( and lower in fructose ) will have a tendency to crystallize sooner than the honey that is lower in glucose ( and higher in fructose).  Honey that comes from nectar from apple, goldenrod, sunflower, alfalfa, dandelion, mesquite and chamisa is high in glucose and will…

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Snow day. . .

Well, not really a snow day (I wish!), but an ice and wind day, the second in a row here. It’s a grey day with a few snowflakes fluttering around. It’s not so far been a productive day. I’ve been wandering from room to room, fighting the urge to take a lesson from the cat. Neither did he go with me to make morning coffee nor did he get out of bed when I started rattling around in the kitchen. He simply got under the duvet instead of on top.

Cat looking into refrigeratorSo I’ve resisted the lure of book and duvet to try to accomplish something, even if not useful or productive, just something I can say that I did. The motif today seems to be opening, peering inside, and closing doors, figuratively and literally, including internet browsing–opening a site and then just passing on to another. I’ve peered into the cabinet where all the plastic storage containers live and close the door tightly and firmly, then opened the internet door (Google search) on organizational ideas for empty containers.

Peering into the refrigerator led to the conclusion that I didn’t want to eat anything that was already in there. The threat of power outage led me to follow a link on what foods were safe after a power outage, but that didn’t catch my interest either (no new information, and no power outage here yet). My list of blogs that I follow l did provide something that held my attention: posts on one taste at a time caught my interest–food waste and eating mindfully. After reading (and reblogging those) my meandering led me back to the kitchen with thoughts of something warm and cozy to eat this afternoon.

This recurring theme eventually led to the freezer compartment of the refrigerator which has been needing organization and sorting for a while. Gazing at a container of stock finally got my interest. What better way to start sorting and organizing that to make something from what I found in the freezer that was approaching its end-of-life-even-if-frozen state.  Thus: mostly freezer soup happened–with additions from the crisper drawer.

Ingredients

  • pulled pork (from a large pork butt, slow-roasted in the Schlemmertopf)
  • two packages of stock (one pork, one chicken)
  • the last package of sofrito (a staple, but needing to be used and replaced)
  • carrots (the last of a bag that had been vacuum packed for later use)
  • 1/2 small rutabaga, diced
  • two handsful of cabbage, in bite-size pieces (a crisper staple)
  • about 1 cup yellow split peas
  • about two teaspoons Hatch red chili powder
  • a dash of dried oregano
  • (a retained bay leaf from the pulled pork)

Preparation

  • thaw and sauté the sofrito to brown lightly (frozen with olive oil)
  • add chili powder and oregano to bloom in olive oil
  • add frozen stock
  • add pork
  • add rutabaga, cabbage, and split peas
  • simmer until rutabaga and split peas are tender (about 40 minutes)

Supper is on! IMG_8880

As is typical of all soup making, there is more than I’m going to eat, but some will go back into the freezer for a quick meal on another grey day–carefully labeled, and dated.

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Leftovers. . . and second servings

One of the banes of refrigerator maintenance is leftovers. I work hard to avoid them, but I’m often defeated in my efforts, especially when eating out. So often restaurant servings are HUGE, and, sucker that I am, I don’t just leave the excess on my plate.  I bring it home, tuck in into the refrigerator, and then likely at some too-far-in-the-future date I get an odoriferous reminder that I now have to do something with the leftovers, which are likely to be found in the back of the refrigerator. They will most likely be unidentifiable now, so they go into the garbage.

cat in refrigerator

lookin’ for leftovers

The obvious first step is to think carefully about bringing home restaurant leftovers: Will it reheat well enough that you really want to eat it?  After all it probably doesn’t make much difference when it gets thrown out–then or a week later. If I decide to tote it home (and I already know that the cat won’t eat it), then I need to label it, and be sure that it doesn’t end up in the back-most corner of the fridge.  I have used masking tape (which comes off easily–often too easily), Sharpies (which can be removed from some things with rubbing alcohol).  I recently found a suggestion to use dry erase crayons (which I didn’t even know existed).  Might be worth a try, but better yet for me would be to be much more judicious in what I put into the fridge as a “leftover”.

“Leftovers” from my own cooking aren’t as much of a problem, but I’m always looking for ways to use the bits and pieces of produce or the last part of that can of beans. I’ve got a handle on the bits and pieces of bags of frozen vegetables and even partially on the celery.  But there are still bits  and pieces….

The Cook’s Illustrated books on cooking for two and Joe Yunan’s book (see bibliography) is the cross-indexing of recipes that use the same ingredient so you have a suggestion for what to do with the other half  of that head of cauliflower.

I’ve found several tools to help reduce waste in single-serving cooking. First from the kitchn is an article titled What to Do With…? 75 Tips for Leftovers and IngredientsThere is a long list of things from produce market, the refrigerator, and the pantry with suggestions of what to do with the extras. For a lot, the suggestions are “freeze it” which does not necessarily solve the problem–just moves it to some point in the future; however, there are some good suggestions.

The flip side of this is throwing away things that could reasonably be used. For some examples, see 10 Foods You Should Never Throw Away. I can agree with the cheese rinds and chicken bones, but here again, I think it’s easy to fall into the trap of just changing where you stash the leftovers. When you’re doing single-serving cooking you do need to consider carefully what you bring home and what you keep.  Also useful might be Top 10 Ways to Use Up Overripe Fruit.

Another article that is useful 15 Foods You Should Freeze in an Ice Cube Tray. There are lots of other things to freeze as “ice” cubes, and the put into zipper-lock bags for freezing.  Having these portioned out can make it easier to use them. One of the things I do with excess celery and carrots is to make mirepoix (soffrito) in a big batch, then freeze it in ice-cube trays. One or two cubes will be what you need for small-time cooking–and it cuts time from preparation, and should reduce waste!

Planning use as in having thought about possibilities for that second serving (no, not meal planning–I don’t do that), and shopping with single-serving cooking in mind should help. One way to manage what gets pushed to the back is to add a triage box to the fridge.  Triage  refers to the process or sorting, or assigning priority to something.  In the fridge it would be an eat-me-first box where you put things that have a short shelf-life, or perishables so that they don’t get pushed to the back of the fridge.

 

Refrigerator and freezer use

Admittedly we need a stove in the kitchen, but we also need the refrigerator–and it’s probably the appliance that we misuse most often. When I stop and think about the times that I’ve had to clean out the refrigerator because something got “lost” back there and made its presence known in a rather aromatic way, I know I need to work on this problem–yes, I’m writing this because I have to clean out the fridge again. . . .

We don’t usually stop to think about the micro-environments inside. I know that I often just open the door and plop something in without much thought to where it would keep best.

Just recently I found a series of articles on the kitchn on using and maintaining the refrigerator for best performance.  I thought I’d share these–I know that I do misuse mine–and I suspect (hope) I’m not alone.

Of course, then there is the freezer which can be wonderful, or a trap cooking intentions. Again, I’m facing the necessity of cleaning out the freezer after the recent kitchen disaster which was directly attributable to me just opening the freezer door and chucking stuff in–I think I need to stop and think about why I’m putting something in the freezer, and make a huge effort at organization.

This is a list of main articles–within each, there are links to other useful tips for managing the cold spots in the kitchen. Now,  off to the kitchen to attack the fridge!

Cat in fridge