Q&A: Safe Ice Cube Trays

  • December 1, 2011 2:27 pm

THE QUESTION

Hi Alexandra,

My question is –  I wanted to get metal ice cube trays, the kind with a lever so you can easily get the cubes out (we don’t have an ice maker).  Online, I’ve found aluminum ones for $7 and stainless steel “BPA free” ones for $30.  Is aluminum bad for you?  Does it have BPA  in it?  Inquiring minds want to know.
Thanks,

Matt

THE ANSWER

Hi Matt,

A perfect question just in time for holiday cocktail season! And what a great idea to avoid plastic.

There should be no bisphenol-A in unlined aluminum ice cube trays (there has been, however, BPA in epoxy linings of aluminum reusable water bottles — the company SIGG got in hot water over this a few summers ago and has since changed the lining they use to something else that is also proprietary, if I’m remembering correctly).

The issues with aluminum are that it isn’t durable, it’s not great environmentally as it is energy intensive to extract from the earth (though the components of stainless steel aren’t exactly energy neutral either), and there have been lingering concerns over the years–largely unsubstantiated but enough to warrant multiple studies–re links to Alzhiemer’s disease.

The long and the short of it is that I prefer stainless. The price evens out as you will probably have to buy five rounds of aluminum trays before your stainless shows any wear and tear. I’m not sure if aluminum is recyclable where you live, but that’s also something to consider. Stainless also goes easily into the dishwasher without any rusting (a big issue with flimsier aluminum). What else can I say? I’m big on the Precautionary Principle — if the risks of aluminum are unsubstantiated, what’s 23 bucks to err on the side of caution? Stainless steel is considered very safe and won’t leach chemicals into your ice.

Hope this helps. And cheers!
Best,

Alexandra

CSA Overload: How To Use Every Last Morsel (aka Glenny Makes Cocktails, Vinegar, Gin, And Syrup)

  • July 16, 2011 8:59 am

I was out of town on Tuesday and offered my CSA share to my lovely editorial assistant Glenny. The catch: she had to trek to get it in one zillion degree weather (subway plus a walk). I love it when people who adore produce do it justice when I’m unable to (even though I get jealous! I missed the first week of the fruit share! argh! I’ve never had blueberries from this CSA before!). When I sniffed around and asked Glenny what she made with the goods, one of her answers floored me. She made cocktails with the thai basil! It has never, ever occurred to me in ten years of being a member of this CSA (check out the farm here) to make a cocktail with my herbs. I guess my age is showing. All I do is shove it all together and try to get it on the table before my five-year-old is too hungry. But how good does this sound? Also — props to her for using everything. I know from experience that I sometimes let the herbs go to waste. All too often I use a few sprigs and then toss them in the compost when they start to look worse for wear. So much so that I tend to put them on the CSA swap table at pick up and take something else I know I will use. No longer. I’m totally inspired by Glenny’s recipes below. Cheers!

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This past week I was gifted a wonderful surprise: Alexandra’s CSA share!  As she was out of town, I was the lucky girl who collected her family’s allotment of fresh produce.  What a treat!  Summer squash, heirloom cucumbers, lots of lettuce, and (swoon!) blueberries, apricots, and red currants.  I’ve been eating very well for the past few days, and have plenty more feasts on the horizon.  While most of the vegetables are staying fresh in my refrigerator, the two huge bunches of thai basil were already starting to wilt on my (sweltering) walk from the pick-up location.  Not wanting to waste a scrap, I decided quickly that the basil would have to be put to use immediately.  Some was used for infusing vinegar, infusing gin, and making simple syrup, but I was still overwhelmed with the amount I had left.  Lucky for me, my boyfriend is a bit of a cocktail ace and was excited to play around with new ingredients.  Here are two delicious, refreshing, and seasonal cocktails for those humid summer evenings when you find yourself with just too much thai basil.

A BOOZY, BASILY BLUEBERRY COCKTAIL

3 to 5 thai basil leaves

1/3 cup blueberries

Muddle in base of a cocktail shaker.

Add:

2 oz dry gin

1 oz fresh lime juice

1 oz honey (or agave nectar)

Fill shaker to the top with ice and shake for 20 seconds.  Strain into ice-filled cocktail glasses.  Garnish with a basil leaf and some whole blueberries.


CUCUMBER BASIL MARTINI

3 to 5 cucumber slices, peeled

3 to 5 basil leaves

Muddle in base of a cocktail shaker.

Add:

2 oz dry gin (or vodka)

3/4 oz Dolin Blanc (vermouth blanc)

Fill shaker to the top with ice and shake for 20 seconds.  Don’t strain the mixture, just pour into cocktail glasses.  Garnish with a cucumber round.

THAI BASIL VINEGAR

Mix 1 quart white wine vinegar with 2 cups chopped basil in a large jam jar.  Let stand in a cool, dark place for 2 weeks.  Strain basil leaves and use for salad dressings and marinades.

THAI BASIL GIN

Mix 2 cups dry gin with 1 cup chopped basil in a medium jam jar.  Let stand in a cool, dark place for 2 to 3 months, depending on how strong you’d like the flavor to be.  Strain the basil and use gin for cocktails, or simply drink on ice.

THAI BASIL SIMPLE SYRUP

Combine 1 cup water, 1 cup sugar, and 1 cup chopped basil in a medium saucepan.  Bring to a boil and stir until sugar is dissolved.  Remove from heat and let stand for 15 to 20 minutes.  Strain basil and use syrup to flavor baked goods, lemonade, or as a base for a sorbet.