ice cube trays: not just for ice
I am all about finding little helpful tricks in the kitchen, if only to make me feel 'smart.' Tricks sometimes save you time, but there are those that don't. With a lot of kitchen ideas and doo-dads out there, it is essential to wade through all the ˜good things" to find what works for you and what doesn't. I am increasingly fond of ice cube trays. Not necessarily if they are blue or red or silicone or heart-shaped. So what is the attraction? Ice cube trays: 1. Save me time: I make pesto from scratch and freeze some in ice cube size portions. Later I can pop pesto into soups, risottos or on top of focaccia for a quick, easy appetizer. If I have lemons and limes that might go bad, I take the liberty of squeezing out all that yummy citrus juice and freezing it in trays for later. I have had people email me and tell me they freeze wine in cubes too!
2. Make drinks look good: On Top Chef's first season, one of the candidates served up a drink with one, huge square ice cube (instead of a pile of little ones). It looked very savvy and makes the drinker feel special. Change up the size and style of your ice cubes to add interest. Also, feel free to freeze cranberries or citrus wedges inside ice cubes to include some artistic effects in your cocktails.
3. Are great for centerpiece-making: Use a bundt pan as a circle or ˜wreath" of ice. Fill with rosemary sprigs and cranberries for Christmas, cherries for Valentines or any other colorful items that fit a given party-theme. In fact items don't HAVE to be edible to freeze in a ring and serve up in a bowl of punch: for Halloween try a bunch of wiggly worms, plastic spiders and flies. A birthday punch bowl could be filled with all sorts of plastic toys and goodies. But let's talk Valentines Day: heart shaped candy, a necklace, or some sort of message in a bottle...
I feel smart in the kitchen when I am saving myself time, as with the citrus or pesto cubes. I feel great when I appear savvy, artistic and clever as with decorating drinks and punch bowls. However, I don't feel so smart when my attempts backfire like the time I tried to freeze red hot candies in ice cubes to create a bloodletting, red-hot flavored drink for Halloween. The candies all sunk to the bottom of the ice cube trays and the red dye came off (white beads in light red cubes?). And it tasted, well, nasty. But alas the pathway to success is often many rounds of failure... besides, that is half the fun!
Here are more interesting ice cube trays: