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…..you 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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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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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…

 

Gazpacho

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.

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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Calamandins/ Calamondin

The calamandin is a small sour orange citrus that is not very well know.  My mother had two gorgeous trees that gave fruit year round.  She used them in drinks, and as marmalade and chutney.  It became a very favorite family fruit.

I now have two trees and I have been able to experiment a bit.

I decided to see if it would go well with some salmon.

CALAMANDIN AND MAPLE  SALMON

I took a beautiful fresh fillet of wild king salmon.  Salted and peppered it.  Then I put it in a oven proof dish with calamandins and poured  a little bit of maple syrup over it.  The calamandins are quite sour so it needed some sweetness and I thought that the whole east meets west, Vancouver type of action would be good.  I sprinkled some herbs de provance over it all and ran it in the broiler  until the salmon was just warm in the middle.  The top of the salmon got a nice browning and it ended up being delish!  I plated it over sauteed spinach. And I sprinkled some sesame seeds over the top of it all.  Even my non fish loving husband liked it.  I think it is a nice use of the calamandins.

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So, I grew up in Mexico.  We had fairs every week-end, if you went to the mercado.  But when I was first introduced to one of the largest county fair in the US, I was blown away.  It is huge!  IT IS: THE GOOD THE BAD AND THE UGLY!

I’m overwhelmed….I think I can’t post everything in one…it’s just too much!  Sigh, sigh…

That is what it is all about, isn’t it?  Good food, good friends and definitely  goooood times.  It was a last minute decision, but I went there by myself…ok, I took my camera, because I really wanted to take my time checking everything out.  And it was fun!

There is always music… or at least that is what some people call it….hey, power to him.  I can’t hold a note.

And then there is excellence, my niece has incredible talent:

Tru Def

Click on the link.  You will enjoy.  I know, I am biased, but she has won top honors in all her competitions.

As I continued my day, I had the opportunity to see the floral displays.  In years past, no one let me do that… they all wanted to “get to the ride”, “eat that thing”, “buy that gadget”.

The flowers made me nostalgic for when I had a garden.  They were beautiful.

That was one of the best arrangements.  Below is one of the  beautiful dahlias.  A very unusual variety,

More beautiful flowers….

Since it is a county fair, there had to be animals…

Mocha, now that’s a good name for a pony.  I’ll bet half the kids were scared to death.

Moooo

Oink…

Kids, and kids and more kids….no pun intended.

But a fair would not be a fair without FOOD!   And what food…

Even old classics like Orange Julius…

AND THEN…. there was the really, really strange food… Giant turkey legs.

My tummy hurts just to look at it!

But these last two were the weirdest.

I’m not kidding.  Chocolate covered bacon.  And it was at the heart attack shack.

And last but not least:

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The Big Green Egg

THE BIG GREEN EGG

Barbeque…BBQ..men cooking.   I always love when husbands say, “don’t worry about dinner Honey, I’m going to grill tonight”.  That means, you are in charge of everything else, I’m standing at the grill  and flipping…

But the funny thing is that when the party gets complicated and I offer to help man the grill (no pun intended), I end up being too preoccupied with all the other dishes I have going on.   And let me tell you that multi-tasking is not a good trait for Q-ing.  I always burn what ever is on the grill.  I know that you should turn the steaks when you see the juices come through.  And you should not keep flipping, and if you turn them only a 1/4 turn, you can make those cool criss-crosses.  But that’s a lot of concentration on one square foot of real estate.

Maybe next time I should just plan to barbeque everything with nothing that requires me to move an inch.  Hmmm…….. let’s see how that works for me…..

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Risotto and Family

I recently had some of my nieces and nephews and other family over for an impromptu dinner.  Of course I thought of making Risotto since it is so easy.  It is a dish that all the family loves, since it was one of my mother’s favorite meals.

My daughter, who unfortunately was not in town reminded me that a few of my guests were vegetarian.  I would not have even thought about the chicken stock that is used if she had not told me.  Instead I made it with vegetable broth.  It has a slightly different flavor, but it turned out great.  I was very pleased that I could be courteous to their dietary preferences.

It was a lot of fun to show them how it is made and of course, that came at a price….. they were enlisted to help stir.  All in all it was a very nice evening with family.

I am re-posting the risotto from an earlier posting.  Remember variations are good!

Shallot

Risotto is a very classic Italian dish.  There are numerous variations.  You can mix it up with different vegetables or proteins.  But by far the most classic interpretation is from Milan.   Rice has a starring role in this recipe and as such, it is important to us the right kind.

peeled shalot

Arborio is a good type to use but the preferred rice is the Carnaroli.  It is plump and releases it’s starch in a uniform manner.  This is what give the dish it’s creamy texture.

rice and garlicrice

The saffron imparts not only color but flavor as well.  Don’t be shocked by the price.  When you think that there are only 3-4 of these strands in a single crocus flower, you begin to understand it’s value.  It is worth it.

Saffron

risotto spoon

Risotto alla Milanese

In a large saucepan, sauté 2 finely chopped shallots and 1 clove of garlic in 2 Tablespoons of olive oil until softened.  Stir in  1 cup of rice. Coat rice with the oil and then add 1/2 cup of white wine. Add 2 capsules of saffron.  Stir constantly.  Start adding 5 cups of broth little by little.  Keep adding the liquid until the rice is done and creamy. Remove from heat and add 1/2 cup of Parmesan cheese.  Add salt and pepper to taste.
Serve.

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Warm mushroom salad

This is a simple salad, but a very interesting one.  It is hearty enough for a light supper. And it is a breeze to make.

Saute a package of mushrooms, about 2 cups in 2 tablespoons of olive oil. You can use regular white button mushrooms or you can use dried mushrooms that you soak in warm water.  Make sure to cut off any tough ends if you use dried. Add chopped onions, garlic or shallots to taste.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  Meanwhile fry bacon until crispy.  You could also use pancetta if you would like.  Once the mushrooms are cooked, add 3 Tablespoons of balsamic vinegar and a splash of olive oil.  Saute a few minutes.  Then add to the greens.

You can use arugula or spinach.  Pour the warm mushrooms on top with some of the dressing.  Crumble the bacon on top and add some cheese.  You can use goat cheese or blue cheese.  Add some toasted pine nuts and serve.

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The “21” Burger

The “21” Club in New York City makes these burgers and although they are good….Crisco?…..seriously?

The ‘21’ Burger

Ingredients:
2 pounds ground sirloin or beef
2 tablespoons Crisco or 4 tablespoons duck fat
1 teaspoon ground fennel seed
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon ground pepper
1 teaspoon fresh thyme
1/2 teaspoon fresh rosemary
1 whole egg
4 tablespoons minced onion
Method:
1. In a mixing bowl add the beef, Crisco or duck fat, fennel, cayenne pepper, ground pepper,
thyme, rosemary, egg and onion. Mix until all ingredients are incorporated evenly.
2. Divide the beef mixture into four, 8‐ounce burgers. Pack and shape them tightly.
3. On a hot grill place the burger and cook for approximately 4 1/2 minutes on each side for a
medium rare temperature (cook longer for a more well‐done burger if desired.)
4. Serve on a bun.
Yield:
4 burgers

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