Kitchen Tip: Making Produce Safe to Eat

Water Photo

By willg photos (c) all rights reserved

Water Wins Again

Just about the time salmonella and E. coli fade from the headlines, it seems like some new contamination case surfaces, putting us right back on edge about the safety of our food.  Remember the outbreak of listeria in last summer’s cantaloup crop?

Fortunately, in one of our Whole Kitchen series, CSU Extension Agent Ann Zander shared a surprisingly effective weapon in the food safety wars:  running water.  No need for fancy washing solutions or time-consuming procedures, she explained, just wash produce in running water.  Surprising as it might be, Extensions Service research showed that plain old water worked as well as commercial washing solutions–and for a lot less money!

  • The key, however, lies in washing the produce under running water.  So it’s great if you’re saving water by scrubbing produce in a bucket of water.  Just be sure to give it a final rinse with a healthy dose of running water after scrubbing.
  • The same goes for lettuce, spinach or any of the leafy greens that get washed in a salad spinner. Remove the spinner from the washing bowl and rinse the greens thoroughly under running water before spinning dry.

Steeping back to a bigger picture view on this topic, isn’t it amazing that plain old water is our best friend when it comes to safe produce?  Really elevates the stature of this seemingly common resource that we so take for granted.  What you should know, however, is that this seemingly plentiful resource is actually becoming scarcer by the day.

Although it is fundamental not only to our healthy existence but also our very survival, water is increasingly being siphoned off for things like:  washing spinach multiple times so we can have a conveniently packaged product; serving as a disposal stream for antibiotics, hormones and other pharmaceutical waste from our bodies; and most recently as a primary ingredient in oil and gas “fracking.”

What happens to our public water is a good issue to watch.  It would be ironic indeed to have plenty of oil for cars and lots of natural gas to heat our homes, only to run short of pure, clean water for drinking, growing food, cooking–and safely washing produce!

Want to learn more about the crucial role of water and how to protect this treasure?  Check out the upcoming conference:   The Downstream Neighbor, January 27-29, 2012 in Denver.

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How to Make the Best Brown Rice . . .

. . .  and Be a Green Cook at the Same Time

A Bits and Pieces Cooking Tip: Use the cooking water from slow cooker beans to cook brown rice.  Earlier posts have described the benefits and how-tos for making slow cooker beans and how to accelerate the process if the slow cooker is too slow for your circumstances.  Now there’s another advantage to cooking beans this way.  The cooking water can be used to cook brown rice, making it really tasty.

  • This simple trick saves water, a good thing in an increasingly water-constrained world
  • It also saves nutrients.  No need to send them down the drain.
  • Finally it saves time and hassle.  Pour bean water into a quart jar, then store in the frig so it’s pre-measured and ready to go when you’re hurrying to get a pot of rice cooking.

The cooking water for this rice began by boiling some carrot and onion tops too tough to cook. Then some pork chop bones were added. The resulting broth was used to cook pasta, a "bits and pieces" cooking tip from Eugenia Bone. After cooking the pasta, I saved the water for one more use: cooking this rice, which came out almost like a risotto, since the cooking water was so rich by this time.

Pasta water works, too. Good chefs often use pasta water in their sauces with delicious results.

In the same way, cooking rice in leftover pasta water yields very delicious results.  Not surprisingly, the rice ends up tasting a lot like the pasta we all love.  Some tips:

  • When draining the pasta, I pour off the top portion, saving  just two quarts from the bottom of the pot, where all the pasta “dust” packed with pasta flavor settles.
  • If you salt your pasta water (which is a good idea) be sure to adjust the amount of salt you add to the rice before cooking.  In fact, you may not need any additional salt beyond what’s in the pasta water.  Taste a spoonful to see.
  • Gluten free?  No worries.  This trick works with brown rice pasta, too.

See how tempting whole grains can be!

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