11 Cool New Uses for Ice Cube Trays
What to do with that last scoop of tomato paste left at the bottom of the can? Freeze it in an ice cube tray. Here are 11 more ingredients worth putting into your tray.
What To Freeze in Your Ice Cube Tray
Those tiny compartments are perfect for preserving single-serving portions of leftover condiments and ingredients that are too small to keep around in the fridge but too tasty (or expensive) to throw out. Once your cubes are frozen, pop them from the tray into a resealable freezer bag for easy access the next time you need a tablespoon or two. You may want to measure what your tray holds, so you can use the right number of cubes in recipes.
Bacon is good, and the fat is even better. Freeze the drippings left in the pan after Sunday brunch, then warm a cube of the stuff to whisk into salad dressing, toss with sauteed greens (amazing with collards and chard) or drizzle on popcorn. Or pull out the stops and use 2 or 3 cubes to fry up potatoes. Chicken and goose fat, if you happen to have them, are like a hidden stash of chilly gold.
Chipotles in Adobo
Freeze these smoky flavor bombs straight from the can, or whip them into a puree in the food processor first. Then keep them on hand to add a kick to meatloaf, stuffed peppers, bean dip and mayonnaise.
Garlic or Ginger
A slurry made from garlic or grated ginger pureed with water captures the pungent flavors of these staples and is easy to scrape off from frozen to mix into stir-fries, mashed potatoes and soups.
Coffee and Tea
No more watery iced coffee when you use ice cubes made from yesterday's brew. But that's just the start: You can whizz coffee cubes with milk in the blender for an instant slushy, melt them into chili for a "cowboy" tang or use a cube in place of water for mocha brownies. Iced tea cubes in lemonade keep an Arnold Palmer nicely chilled and add a sophisticated touch to cocktails — think Long Island Iced Tea or bourbon punch. An icy cube of tea will also cool a sunburn.
Lemon or Lime Juice
Why bother with the store-bought fake stuff? With these sunny cubes on hand it's easy to add a spoonful of acid to brighten chicken soup or pho, lighten salad dressings and perk up a pan sauce. Combine a cube of lime juice with soy sauce and garlic for a last-minute marinade for seafood or pork. Rub a cube over the cut sides of an apple or pear to prevent the fruit from browning, or use a sprinkle of the juice to revive a tired fruit salad, yogurt dip or hummus.
Red and White Wine
Just about the only thing you can't do with frozen wine is drink it. It's practically perfect for so much else: Deglaze your fish pan with a wine ice cube, then add a dab of butter for a tasty sauce. Use it to punch up a beef stew or marinara. Add two or three to the pot when steaming mussels and clams. Or melt down a tray-full to poach fruit at its peak of ripeness.
Vegetable and Fruit Purees
Boost a green smoothie with a cube of frozen spinach; supercharge a milkshake with a cube of frozen mango. Vegetable cubes are ideal for thickening soups, whipping into yogurt or mayo for hearty sandwich spreads, and making into dips. Pureed fruit and sweet potatoes can be mixed into pancake batter or oatmeal. And with applesauce in your freezer, you're only a minute away from lightening up banana breads, cakes and muffins.
Whipping up fresh ranch dressing is a snap when you have this multitasking basic in your freezer. Melt it down to make tangy mashed potatoes, crisp fried chicken, creamy panna cotta, buttermilk icing, fluffy waffles and not-too-sweet ice cream.
Next time you need to caramelize onions, make a double batch and freeze the leftovers to add slow-cooked flavor to a grain salad, pizza, sandwich or baked potato. The onions make a killer burger topping, and paired with a creamy cheese like chevre or Brie, they're the ideal toast spread for a quick hors d'oeuvre.
These unctuous cloves are delicious mashed with steamed cauliflower, tossed with broccoli, spread on a veggie sandwich, whipped into baba ghanoush and mixed into marinades and dressings. Roasted-garlic Caesar, anyone?
Once you master this simple sauce of butter gently cooked to the point of nuttiness, you'll want to enjoy it with everything. And with cubes in your freezer, you can. Just melt one down to spoon over steamed vegetables, roasted squash, pasta or broiled fish. Stir it into cake batter, cookie dough and frosting. Or take a page from Indian cooks and add a dollop to rice and lentils.