Seasoning Cast Iron Pots and Pans

Cast Iron pots and pans are the work horse of a properly equipped kitchen.  They last FOREVER.  They can be passed down from generation to generation.  All of my mother’s grandchildren identify with her cast iron pots and pans.  I remember how she would make hamburgers in them with only a dusting of salt on the pans.  Some how they never stuck to the pans and were so easy to clean.  Hers were beautifully seasoned and maintained.  It horrifies some to know that a well seasoned cast iron pan should never be washed with soap and water.  If you do, then you need to start from season it again.  Most of the time it only requires a quick wipe with a damp cloth.  Maybe a quick rinse with only water and a soft brush.  But always, always they must be dried perfectly.  The easiest way to dry them is to put them on the stove with the flame on or in a hot oven.  It only takes minutes for them to be bone dry that way, but if you don’t do it, they will rust and guess what… have to start all over again with the seasoning.

Many people use many different types of oil to season their pots.  But I recently read about the virtues of using Flax Oil.  There are some scientific reasons why this Omega 3 oil bonds with the cast iron.  It seems to polimerize best.  I also like the idea that you are using a food grade oil that is healthy so if any gets into the food, you are good!

So the first thing to do is to remove previous coats on the pots.  Even if you buy brand new ones, you should do this since you don’t know what type of oil they used.  An easy way to do it is to put the pots in the oven and run the oven cleaning cycle.   If you can’t do that then you can use oven cleaner and get everything off.  They will look horrible;full of rust.  Then you apply a thin layer of Flax Oil with either your fingers or a paper towel.  You can also use a rag if you see that the paper towel leaves lint behind.  Then you take another rag and rub as much of the oil as you can get off.  You want a very thin layer of oil and you don’t want any type of drips.  Place the pots in a cold oven and turn it up to 500 degrees F. Once the temperature reaches 500, leave it on for 1 hour.  After that, without opening the oven door, turn off the oven and do not open the door, until it is completely cold.  Once the pans are cold, you can add another layer of Flax Oil.  You do this same process six times.  I know it sounds like a lot, but it is well worth it.  Besides, it takes 2 minutes to spread the oil, wipe it off and start the oven.  But when you see the sheen that the pans have, you will be delighted.  Just take care of them, or you will need to do this whole system all over again.

Enjoy using your beautiful pans.

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Preserving Summer Bounty

Summer offers a plentiful bounty of wonderful fruits.  And since we all know that winter is just around the corner, we must make this bounty last longer.  The best way to do that is by preserving it.  Preserves…..  such a big category.  One can preserve almost all kinds of foods.  There are several methods to keep food over long periods of time.  Prior to the invention of refrigeration, this was the only way to extend the life of food.  Our forefathers salted, brined, pickled, canned and smoked food in order to keep it longer periods of time.  All of these methods are a lot of fun to do and keep us connected to our past.

I remember as a little girl watching my Grandmother and my Mother make jams and jellies.  I sat in amazement that they could turn fruit into such wonderful spreads.  This summer my niece, who also has these memories of her Grandmother (my mother), asked me if I would show her how to do it.  I was very touched and delighted to spend the day with her.  We had so much fun!

I searched my cooking magazines and cook books and came up with a menu that would show her the variety of foods that could be preserved using a water bath method that can be done easily.


There are jams, jellies and preserves.  Jellies have only the juice of the fruit and no pulp.  It is made by straining the cooked fruit in a cheese cloth to only collect the liquid.  Don’t squeeze the cheese cloth or the juice will become cloudy.  The difference between jams and preserves is the size of the fruit.  Jams have more crushed fruit.  The crushing also helps develop the natural pectin in the fruit.  Preserves are either large pieces or the whole fruit.

The important thing in jams is the ratio of fruit to sugar.  The sugar is what is going to make the jam come together.  My mother’s recipe is equal parts of berries and sugar with the juice of 2 lemons.  You can make jam without sugar, but you need to use pectin to make it gel. Macerate (combine and leave standing at room temperature) the sliced strawberries with the sugar for at least an hour.  Bring to a boil in a large pot.  Let the mixture simmer until it reaches the soft ball stage (235 degrees F).  You can also check by placing a drop of the jam in a glass of cold water and it should stay together in a soft ball.  Another trick is to place a plate in the freezer when you start and place a large drop of the jam on the frozen plate and it should hold together if it is at the right stage.

Sterilizing the jars is very important. If any bacteria is introduced to the jars, it will spoil the food and can be very dangerous.  The Mason jars can be sterilized by boiling the jars and the lids.  They must also be processed and sealed.  The jars can be sealed with wax or using the tops from the mason jars and a water bath that will create a vacuum seal.  The National Center for Home Food Preservation is a great source of information.  Their website is

For the peaches, we tried a variation on a recipe that came out in one of my magazines.  It is a peach preserve that is infused with  tea.   It sounded a little strange at first, but it was so good.  We peeled the peaches by blanching them in hot water first.  The ratio was 5 lbs of fruit to 4 cups of sugar.  I think that a little bit of ginger and lemon juice would have been a great addition to it.

We were so pleased to see how productive the day had been once we got everything into the water bath.

And then, the Bounty of Summer:

Stay tuned for the pickles we made…..for another post.


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Cooking misconceptions

There are many things that we do just because we heard about it somewhere.  Or it could have come from an old wife’s tale.  But there is one thing that does drive me up the wall, batty, crazy… need I say more?


The theory is that you put a splash of oil into the water you are going to cook the pasta in so that the pasta does not form clumps and stick to itself.  In reality all it does is coat the pasta with oil.  This will cause the sauce you put on the pasta to slide right off.  It has no chance of adhering to the pasta.


Instead, the water should be quite salty.  How salty you ask?  It is said that the water should taste like the ocean.  So taste your water to make sure it has enough salt.

Also it is best to put the cooked pasta into the saucepan with the sauce and coat it there.

Buon Appetito!




The other night we had a wonderful dinner at Kenichi.   We did not order one single item.  Our friend Cory is a chef there and just kept the food coming.

They had just received a shipment of fresh fish.  It’s always good to know, especially if you are going to be eating Sashimi.

We had some fresh scallops:

Next up was a Tempura crab roll:

The presentation of each dish is outstanding.  They are each a work of art.  And the taste…..Mmmmm!!!

This is Cory on the left with his Boss.

Very, very serious people.

Here it comes:

This is fresh Abalone.  Very special.

This is some Ahi poke.  Check out the huge leaf of Japanese mint, Shiso.  It has a very delicate taste and is really beautiful.

Sorry about the picture, but this shows the two kinds of wasabi they serve.  On the right is the usual type, but on the left is a pickled wasabi.  It is less pungent.

All in all it was a wonderful evening.  The food was terrific, the company was super and it was a lot of fun.

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Eggs.  They have been called the perfect food.  I really do agree with that.  There are so many things that you can do with them.  They can be dessert, they can be savory, they can be a snack or an entire meal.  They really are versatile.

A souffle is really just a combination of a bechamel sauce that is flavored, and eggs.  The eggs are separated.  The whites are beat to a stiff peak and the yolks are incorporated into the sauce.  It is placed into a high sided dish into a high oven and backed to a puffy, golden crust.

The whites need to be at the stiff peak stage to be able to hold up to the sauce that will give the flavor to the souffle.

When you put the two sauces together you, voila you have a Souffle.


Cheese Souffle

  • ¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 ¼ cups of stock
  • 4 large eggs, separated, plus 3 large egg whites
  • 6 ounces Gruyère cheese, shredded (2 packed cups)
  • 1 ¼ teaspoons kosher salt
  • ¼ teaspoon cream of tartar

Preheat the oven to 375°. Butter a 1 1/2-quart soufflé dish and coat it with 2 tablespoons of the Parmigiano.
In a medium saucepan, melt the butter. Stir in the flour to make a paste. Bring to a boil over moderate heat, whisking. Reduce the heat to low and cook, whisking, until very thick, 3 minutes. Transfer the base to a large bowl; let cool. Stir in the egg yolks,Gruyère, salt, and the remaining 1/4 cup of Parmigiano. Put the 7 egg whites in a large stainless steel bowl. In an electric mixer, beat the whites and the cream of tartar until firm peaks form. Fold one-third of the whites into the soufflé base to lighten it, then fold in the remaining whites until no streaks remain.
Scrape the mixture into the prepared dish. Bake for about 35 minutes, until the soufflé is golden brown and puffed. Serve right away.

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Table settings

Meal time is a very special time.  I find it so astonishing that so many families do not sit at dinning room tables.  I think it is very, very sad.  This is such a great opportunity to really make mealtime special.  And setting a beautiful table is really a great way to demonstrate an appreciation for the food that is to come.

It can be a formal birthday celebration.

This will be a party that will always stay in our memories as a very special and magical evening.

It can be a simple table setting with beautiful dishes….

Beautiful china can make the setting have a certain flavor….

Even a simple family dinner can be a special occasion with just a few added touches.

And a family holiday is the perfect time to set a colorful table.

So next time you go to set your plate down to eat, consider how nice it would be to add just a few small touches to make the dining experience special.

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Insalata Caprese

Sometimes less is more….. and that is never more true than it is in food.  If you start with really fresh and good quality products and don’t mess with them too much, you can achieve gastronomic perfection.

A classic example is the mozzarella and tomato salad known as Insalata Caprese.

Beautiful heirloom tomatoes.  It is really nice to use different varieties and colors.

Fabulous mozzarella!!!  It is so soft and creamy and delicious.

Slice them up to really see the vibrant colors.

The sliced cheese and the fresh, fresh basil add to the flavors.

Place it all together and drizzle a simple vinaigrette  and enjoy.

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Street Food

Street Food in Mexico is a way of life.  It’s easy to get all kinds of different snacks.  And the creativity of the vendors is really tremendous.

So these tamales are served piping hot…..

And the stands are colorful….

YUM!! Tacos and Pozole….

And even flan for dessert…


Fiestas Mexicanas

Mexico celebrated it’s 200 year Independence anniversary.  There were many, many celebrations, not only in Mexico but also at every Embassy all over the world.  But of course food is at the center of everything, right?

We went to one of our family’s favorite restaurant.

It’s a very picturesque place with a garden full of birds.

But, once again…the food:  Even the butter is beautiful.

The avocado soup is delish!

The “platillo mexicano”  is a good example of Mexican food:

And then of course the typical September dish, chiles en nogada:

The recipe is at   on a previous post here.



Summertime is sun…..

Unless you were on the West Coast this year!

And summertime is Tomatoes.  Nice big, red, juicy tomatoes.  And what to do with them?  Why Gazpacho of course.

Gazpacho comes from the Andalucia region of Spain.  And it is a typical summer soup in most homes.  As such, you can imagine that there are numerous variations.  Some have bread, as a thickener, some don’t.  They almost all have the basics that are tomatoes, cucumbers and bell peppers.  But there is even a white Gazpacho that is made with bread and almonds.

I prefer the traditional red gazpacho.


5 large ripe tomatoes, or 10 ripe plum tomatoes

1 1/2 cucumbers, peeled and seeded (reserve the other half for the garnish)

1/2 green bell pepper (save the other half for the garnish)

1 clove of garlic

2 tablespoons of lemon juice or light vinegar, your preference

a drizzle of really good olive oil

Salt and Pepper to taste

Place all of the ingredients in a blender and process until smooth.  Check for seasoning.  Pour through a strainer to catch the tomato skins and seeds.  Serve very cold with a garnish of the peppers and cucumbers diced very small.

It is a really easy way to celebrate the bounty of a summer garden.

Sadly, I lost the picture I took of the final product….alas, I will just have to make it again.

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