Eat Well: WWW & the cast iron chef

The following post was written by my mom, WWW. Thanks, mom!
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I can’t believe that I have been here for six weeks serving as Rebecca's “au-parent” in Babyland. The time has flown by and I suppose that is because I am so busy with so many tasks—cooking, cleaning, feeding babies, washing bottles, driving kids back and forth to school, helping with homework, and loving every minute of it. I am totally in the moment, doing the task at hand, and loving every minute of it. Did I say that I’m loving every minute of it?
I mean...
Years ago when my kids were little, I read a book about the Amish telling of their philosophy to do every task, no matter how simple, with love. At that stage in my life, it was hard to appreciate the menial tasks and to be in the present moment with them. There were always so many things to think about, so many worries about the future, about getting everything done. Time was the enemy and I felt like I was in a constant battle with it. While I was doing the wash, my mind was racing into the future, thinking about what I was going to do next. I tried to enjoy each moment with each task but always failed.

It is interesting that a couple of days after Bo and Rev were born, I noticed The Prophet, lying on Rebecca’s desk, and opened it to this quote:
"And what is it to work with love?
It is to weave the cloth with threads drawn from your heart, even as if your beloved were to dwell in that house. It is to sow seeds with tenderness and reap the harvest with joy, even as if your beloved were to eat the fruit. It is to charge all things you fashion with a breath of your own spirit, and to know that all the blessed dead are standing about you and watching...
Work is love made visible."
Of course I miss Larry, who comes to visit us on weekends, and at some level my life, but right now, being here feels so “right."
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...And although I thought I would be home by now, at this moment, I am not feeling even slightly ready to pack up and move back to San Diego because they still need me here. Yes I am tired at the end of the day, but it isn’t from working. It is, as Kahlil Gibran so wisely alluded, from loving.
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When I first arrived here a month ago, I had to get used to cooking in Rebecca’s kitchen without my tools. Rebecca has never really stocked her kitchen with pots and pans, baking dishes or, for that matter, dishes in general. She never had a wedding or wedding shower and on top of that is kind of a “cooking minimalist” so her supply of all things cooking is a little bit slim and hodge-podge. Luckily, as I mentioned last week, my favorite pot is here by sheer accident. I love my Le Creuset pot and as you probably know by now from all of my pictures, I cook everything in it. These pots are expensive but well worth the investment. (I got mine at Home Goods and it was about half the price of those found in conventional stores). They cook evenly, especially on a gas stove, and can also go in the oven. Le Creuset pots are made from cast iron covered with enamel so they are heavy, but I store mine on the stove so I don’t have to be lifting it constantly in and out of the cupboard. I use it every day, anyway, and the lovely blue exterior matches my kitchen. (As well as Rebecca’s!)

The first day I was here, I perused all the cupboards so I would not only know where to find everything but also to see if I needed to buy anything special for my cooking needs. And that’s when I found my new culinary crush—the cast iron skillet. Rebecca’s brother David and his girlfriend Alyssa (who are huge fans of cast iron skillets) gave it to Bec for Christmas. I have never owned a cast iron skillet nor have I ever cooked in one. I cannot believe that I have been cooking in everything BUT cast iron all these years. Now that I have experienced the Holy Grail of cooking pans, I am smitten. In fact, one month later, I am now so addicted that I am going to buy one immediately upon returning home.

I fell in love with Rebecca’s “iron chef” over marinara sauce. I always brown my mushrooms first. But for the last 35 years, they have never turned BROWN. In fact, cooking mushrooms has been a constant source of disappointment. When cooked they get soft and turn sort of gray. In an iron skillet, however, mushrooms actually BROWN as in get CRISPY and FLAVORFUL and DELICIOUS and PERFECT.
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When properly seasoned, a cast iron skillet has a natural non-stick finish and cooks unbelievably evenly. They come in a variety of sizes and shapes. Rebecca has the 12 inch skillet made by Lodge and I love the size. This one was pre-seasoned, but you can also buy them unseasoned. If you have one that isn’t seasoned, you must season it before use. Simply coat the outside and inside with a layer of cooking oil and put in the oven at 350 for one hour. When cooled, wipe the surface with a paper towel.

Always put oil or butter in a cold skillet and then heat completely before adding anything to the pan. This will keep the food from sticking. Over time, the pan will take on a shiny patina.
Never use soap when cleaning the pan. Just rinse in hot water and use a non-metal scrubber or stiff brush to clean out any food. If you do use soap, make sure you re-season the pan afterwards. Here is more information on how to care for cast iron.

The wonderful thing about cast iron pans is that you can use them on the stove or in the oven. If you want to buy a great pot that cooks as well as my Le Creuset but don’t want to spend a lot of money, for $40 you can buy a Lodge Dutch oven which will cook just as beautifully but will require a little more care. And for all of you people who tend to be anemic, which is often a problem with vegetarians, cooking in cast iron is an easy solution as a little bit of the iron from the pan goes into the food providing you with your necessary iron.

Besides frying, stewing or braising, you can use your cast iron pan to make a variety of stove to oven dishes. Alyssa roasts her veggies in hers, first putting it under the broiler to get hot, tossing her veggies in oil and seasoning, and then adding them to the heated pan, leaving them under the broiler for another 5 to 10 minutes. This way, the veggies caramelize on top and bottom. David made a tarte tatin (French apple tart) the other night in his skillet and with all of the gorgeous new crop apples in the stores right now, I had to try it. I think this will be my new dessert for the holidays!!
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Tarte Tatin
(French upside down caramelized apple tart)

7-8 apples (any good cooking apples work. I used a combo of Granny Smith and Honey Crisp)
1 stick salted butter
1 cup sugar (I used raw turbinado but white is traditional)
1 round frozen puff pastry (or a butter crust of your choice, either bought or home made)

1. Defrost 1 round of puff pastry.
2. Peel, core, and quarter 7 apples.
3. Melt one stick of butter in a 10 or 12 inch cast iron pan...
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...Add the sugar and stir until thick. IMG_5192
Turn off the heat and place apple quarters decoratively around the outside edge of the pan and then fill in more in the middle
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...If you have some extra room, you can add another apple or part of one.
4. Turn stove to MEDIUM HIGH and cook for about 15 minutes, or until the butter and sugar has turned to caramel. It is important to have the heat high enough so the apples don’t break down before the butter and sugar caramelize.
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5. Meanwhile preheat oven to 375.
6. When caramel is nice and brown (15-18 minutes), turn off flame and lay puff pastry or crust on top, folding in the edges...
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...Put in oven on a cookie sheet and bake for 20-30 minutes or until golden brown and puffy.
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7. Take out of oven and let cool for 30 minutes. Run a knife around the outside to loosen any crust that may have stuck to the pan. Put a large plate or platter on top of the pan and carefully turn it over (use pot holders if the pan is still hot). You will hear a “thud” as the tart falls to the plate. Let cool and serve either room temperature or warm. You can add a scoop of ice cream on top for a truly decadent dessert!
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***

I also made cornbread and a frittata in the cast iron skillet this week. Due to the craziness that is our life right now, I forgot to take a picture of the frittata after I added the eggs, and again after I took it out of the oven, but here is a lovely picture of the BROWN mushrooms and the peppers, onions and artichokes before the eggs were added. You can add any vegetables you want to the frittata. Just make sure they are thoroughly cooked before adding the eggs.

Frittata
(mushroom, onion, pepper, and artichoke)

8 oz sliced mushrooms
1 onion, thinly sliced
1 roasted pepper, sliced
1 package roasted artichokes or 1 can artichoke hearts, quartered
fresh herbs of your choice
8 eggs
½ cup milk
4 oz goat cheese
salt and pepper (lots of it) to taste

1. Brown mushrooms in 10 or 12 inch cast iron skillet. Add onions and peppers and artichokes and cook until onions are soft.
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2. Beat eggs with milk, add salt and lots of pepper, and pour into hot pan. Stir to mix. Don’t stir again after this. Add goat cheese on top. Turn down to low and cook for 10 minutes until brown on the bottom and almost set.
3. Put under the broiler for 3 minutes or until brown and just set. Do not over cook. Cut into wedges and serve hot or room temperature.

***

And as for the cornbread, just use your favorite cornbread recipe, heat the skillet in the oven with a tablespoon of butter until it is sizzling, and add the batter to the hot skillet. Cook as directed in your recipe and enjoy!
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***

Love from Babyland,

WWW

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47 comments:

Jennifer | 10:43 AM

That picture of the babies sleeping face to face...is almost too cute to handle.

Sabrina | 10:50 AM

I think it's amazing that you are there for the whole family. That's what great Nana's are for. And yum that apple tart looks amazing. Dusting off my cast iron skillet as I type this

cat | 10:53 AM

I agree. The face to face killed me. This post also made me really excited about cast iron pans. I use my le creuset all the time but tho sounds awesome!

lizz | 11:08 AM

I have my grandmothers cast iron skillet. It is by far the most used item in my kitchen. I love it!

Jillian | 11:34 AM

I love my cast iron skillets! I have a little one and large Le Creuset dutch oven that are my go tos for 90% of the time.
(The face to face pic is too cute!)

NodToStyle | 11:42 AM

i am the biggest fan of cast iron pans. growing up that's all my mom used; in fact, i really don't know how to cook on anything else.
these recipes look amazing! as soon as i'm done with a housesitting gig i will be making them.

Carlin | 12:04 PM

Two thoughts. First, I LOVE your mom's posts. Thank you for sharing your thoughts on doing everything with love. That message hit home for me today as I have definitely NOT been doing it with love. As you said, it is hard to focus on the current task without letting your mind wander to the next task at hand.

Second, my eldest daughter (5 years old) saw the picture of Bo and Rev sleeping face to face and exclaimed, "look Mommy! they make a heart!" Awe. :)

Glenda | 12:18 PM

You are an amazing nana. Something I look forward to in the future. Love the pictures.

Thanks for reminding us to slow down and enjoy each task and enjoy the LOVE. So many times I get so caught up and I'm doing one thing, thinking of the next 10 things I have to do. Thanks!

CP | 12:35 PM

I have to concur with the other folks in how wonderful it is that you can be there with the family. I always say that when my mom comes to town it feels like I am able to let go. It is the time when I feel like not everything is on me (even though my husband and I really share so many of the responsibilities). But having mom around is just something really special. It is also a great lesson for what Rebecca and I can do for our daughters someday - see moms never stop teaching us things. Enjoy your time there and all of that grandchild love.

Loodles | 1:01 PM

Rebecca,
I know I've left this comment before but I thought I would just say again how much I love your mom and her posts. She's got amazing advice in the cooking department and she's such a sweet soul. I can see how under such thoughtful and loving care you turned out to be the brave and positive person you are.
Rock on WWW and GCC.
I'm off to go lovingly fold my laundry.
PS. The babies=poetry.

Anonymous | 1:38 PM

"Never over-crowd the mushrooms. If you, do they will not brown."

Quote from Juila Child

Punk Rock Mom | 1:43 PM

My Mom stayed with me for a week after each of my babies were born. It was the most amazing gift she has ever given me. When my youngest was born she as in the NICU for 5 days. The face that my Mom was there for my 6 year old (she is one day older than Archer!) left me with a peace of mind. With everything else going on I knew that my older daughter was not just in capable hands, but in the hands of a Grandmother who loves her more than life itself. What you are doing for Rebecca and her family is so amazing. You are such a wonderful Mom and Nana.

Anonymous | 2:08 PM

I posted a while back about how lucky you are to have such a fantastic mother and grandmother for your kids. Please don't ever take her for granted, you are beyond blessed to have such a positive role model and rock in your life....
The photos of your parents with your babies clearly show how much they love you all. Makes me sad in a way that my parents have never been around to help me or share in the happiness my children have brought me. But most of all, it makes me determined to be completely different to my mother; to do my very best to be a good mother and when the time comes, a great grandmother.

Erin | 2:32 PM

You seem like one wonderful mom.

jessica | 3:11 PM

Finally something that I can eat!!! that looks awesome and I will be making it (apple thing) wow i'm starving now!!

GIRL'S GONE CHILD | 3:16 PM

Anon- You're so right and I know how lucky I am! Beyond lucky. It blows my mind every second of every day. I would be completely lost and totally insane without my mother. With her I'm just a little lost and slightly insane. Thanks for all of your loving comments. I know they make her day and I love that you guys love and appreciate her posts. xoxoxo

Victoria | 3:17 PM

I just want to say how much I love reading www's posts. I can feel the love and envy Rebecca and her family. I so look forward to reading everything that www writes. Thank you for sharing with us!

Belle K Miller | 3:42 PM

i have an almost 6 week old, my mom came for 5 weeks to help (read: love and spoil me) and i miss her so much now that she is gone home (4 hour flight away). we fought endlessly about being in the moment, i wanted her to sit with me while I ws breast feeding to keep me company and she would want to jump to the next boring
(but necessary) task. I was slept deprived and a bitch to her. but we acknowledged it and i apologized.
anywaysi am trying to type and bf at the same time, which isnt very being in the moment ish- so i must sign off.- b

Anonymous | 4:20 PM

I became so engrossed with this post that I burned my veggie burgers! I love, love, love this post. And I'm going to remember it. "Work with love" is going to replace my previous mantra of "it's not called a hobby with pay."

Cait | 4:25 PM

Oh my god but seriously, that picture of Archer holding Rev made my ovaries explode. I didn't think anything could be cuter than the babies face to face, but that did it. I'm so happy for you that you get to spend this time with your grandkids, and I only hope my mom will be half as awesome when I have babies!

Another Bec | 5:12 PM

This is awesome! I just bought my first cast iron skillet this week. How timely. Love your posts, WWW.

Leslie | 5:25 PM

I looooooooooove the picture of Archer reading with WWW and...Rev? SO CUTE>

Rebbie | 6:08 PM

Reading your blog each day feels like coming home...and with WWW's posts, it's icing on the cake. Pure love up in that hiz-ouse.

Darrah | 6:36 PM

I love all of your recipes and cooking inspiration....ever think of compiling everything into a book? I know that I would certainly want a copy! :)

Jax | 6:56 PM

Seriously, you have to be the COOLEST Nana in the entire world! And, you HAVE TO put all your posted recipes in one place where I can find them and use them. I NEVER keep recipes from blogs or posts, but after reading all of yours, it made me want to try so many of them!!!!!!!!!! and yeah we grew up with a cast iron skillet, and back when I was a kid and didnt give a whiff about cooking, my brother, who turned out to be a chef, escaped with my Mom's pan and it still irks me to this day!! Lovin' the babies, all 4 of them, BTW!!!

Tricia | 7:32 PM

Is it weird that this post made me cry? Of all the posts your mom has written, this one takes the cake (or apple tart, I guess). So beautiful. I squealed a little, too, because I actually bought a 12 in. Lodge cast iron skillet just this morning for a new dinner recipe, and I'm already in love with it. So I am grateful and excited to try the recipes your mom posted! Thanks, WWW! (P.S. the kids are gorgeous, as ever!)

emily | 7:58 PM

oh, i love this! thank you. i'm in the midst of my own babyland here and trying to do the little things with love and often failing miserably. It's incredibly comforting to hear from someone further along that you get better at it, that you keep growing in it (and that someone who seems as lovely as you do struggled with it). More and more I'm treasuring hearing from your generation about how you grow and what you grow into, what life holds. And I'm a huge cast iron fan - i will be making that tarte tatin! Thanks for the recipe! Your family is so lucky to have you there. I'm really glad they have you.

Estelle | 9:26 PM

I love this post for so many reasons. I don't even know where to start. I just really appreciate everything that you are sharing about your growing family and it's always such a treat to hear your mama's perspective. Just a lovely family.

And now I'm motivated to dig out my cast iron skillet, season it and make that classic tart.

A* | 9:36 PM

When my grandmother passed away, I took her three cast iron skillets. After years of her using them, they were perfectly seasoned. I love because they remind me of her, a wonderful southern woman who was my Granny and because what's not to love about a well-seasoned cast iron skillet.

Love the pictures of the fam and the eat well posts.

Wendy Woolf | 10:25 PM

I really am overwhelmed by all of your loving comments. You are the best!! I would love to put my recipes together in some kind of book form if I could figure out how. Maybe someday! :) Meanwhile, if you put in the search engine on Rebecca's site an ingredient or recipe you are interested in, the recipes will appear. Hope that helps!

Katie | 10:50 PM

Yes, the photo of the two angels sleeping is so lovely. How happy and joyous your days must be filled. Sometimes when we surrender to the simplicity of life the present moment takes over just like you experienced. Much love to you. xoxokt <a href="http://www.MiniHipster.com

JMariselli | 10:51 PM

Thanks for this post. What an awesome Mother you are. I use my Grandmother's cast iron skillet pans and a pot that brings tears to my eyes from remembering her famous fried chicken that she used that pot for. My husband is a chef from Italy and almost lost it when he saw how caked on the outside of the pot was from years of frying. He lovingly scrubbed that thing and brought it back to life! Doing things with love is how I try to exude daily. Thanks again for this post!

Eric Devericks | 12:18 AM

What a phenomenal mom....

Autumn | 5:17 AM

I wish my mom had been even slightly as helpful as you when my babies were little! You are inspiring. I hope I can be a grandma as wonderful as you are!

You also made me feel great about the day to day work I do as a mom. I always feel like the greek guy in hades who has to push the boulder up a hill only to have to roll back down again before I can get to the top. Most days I embrace my tasks as part of loving my children and family, but it's a good feeling to know I'm not the only one who has struggled with this!

tam | 6:40 AM

just, tons of love- for Wendy, Rebecca, all of you- I would like to be counted as one of the admiring, loving many who appreciates what you do and how you help us do it.
Oh! That reminds me- after F was born, you had some "top ten" or list-y things that I thought were very inspired and helpful.
Getting a cast iron skillet post-haste.

Adrianne | 7:49 AM

This post (and all of WWW's before it) explains so much. It is definitely easy to see where Rebecca learned to be such an amazing mother, and I have no doubt that one day she will be doing the same things for Archer, Fable, Bo and Rev. Having such amazing kids and grandkids is a testament to how truly amazing you are, Wendy. All of your loving work has paid off! Thank you for this beautiful post.

P.S. Did I say "amazing" enough in that comment?! ;)

mjjudy | 9:08 AM

Looks fantastic! I want a LeCreuset for Christmas--what size does your mother find most versatile? Thanks!

Maggie | 9:28 AM

You are such a good mom for staying so long! I hope to be able to do that for my girls someday. If my mom stayed with us for 6 weeks, my husband would never forgive me :)
Speaking of enameled cast iron pots, I have a pot made by The Lodge that is almost identical to the Le Creuset at a fraction of the cost and made in the USA! For those of us on a tight budget, it is a great way to go. Keep the recipes coming!

Amber | 10:13 AM

I can't wait to try the apple recipe in my cast iron skillet. I have one that was passed down to me but was afraid to use it because I wasn't sure how to season it after giving it a good cleaning. Now I know! Thanks for the informative post.

Anonymous | 10:36 AM

Say what? Becca never had a wedding? She and Hal aren't married?

Wendy Woolf | 11:07 AM

anon...they eloped and got married but didn't really have a "wedding" so they didn't register and get equipped with a lot of household stuff.

Gaby | 1:23 PM

I wish my mom were 1/100th as involved in my life and my son's, but alas, she is not. I will simply envy your awesome relationship and soak in your mom's advice. Thank you for sharing your family with us all (especially those of us who don't have the same kind of family).

bluejeanamy | 2:16 PM

i love this post!

and i, too, love love cast iron skillets. in fact, it's basically ALL i cook with... i have the 12 inch lodge and it's amazing. how awesome that it also enriches your foods with iron?!

pot for pasta, wooden spoon and a cast iron skillet = make everything! :)

Margie | 6:31 PM

Rebecca your Mum rocks.
Enjoy your beautiful time living together.

bbgHappY1 | 6:42 PM

I truly enjoy your mother's posts.
Anything I didn't learn from my mother (who also is amazing) I am learning from yours.

Thanks, for the recipes, the lovely story at the beginning of the post. Funny thing, I have the book the Prophet, but never got around to reading it. Guess what, I am going to open it up and open up my heart as now. Savour my moments in time with my own children.

Ashley | 7:49 PM

I too have just recently discovered my love of cast iron. I will never go back. It's practically the only thing I cook in anymore. Cast iron FTW!

brandy | 11:37 AM

Love the blog and these nana posts are awesome. My mama is wonderful, and she will be coming to stay with us for a while after our boy is born (in a couple weeks!) But she doesn't cook, she opens cans. So as an adult vegetarian, i eat a lot of salads, and open a lot of cans. These posts are so inspiring, and make cooking, and parenting, seem easy and natural. I swear, by the time my boy is eating solids, he will see me as a cook, not a giant canopener ;) Thank you