Tuesday, September 29, 2009

'Tis the Season

Work has been crazy so I haven't had much time to devote to blogging until now. A few months ago I finally bought my first cast-iron skillet. I've been wanting one for so long and I'm not even sure of the reason for my delay. I'm holding out on purchasing the high-end Le Creuset cookware but I found a great skillet by Lodge.

Seasoned cooks may already know about the merits of cast-iron skillets, but for those of you newbies, it's one of the most versatile pieces of cookware available. You can cook almost any food in cast iron cookware. It has great cooking properties - Heat is evenly distributed and held, making it ideal for deep frying, searing, and even baking. I like it b/c it can go directly from stove-top to oven. And it gets better with age compared to your non-stick pans which can scratch easily.

But before you get too excited and start whipping up frittatas, be sure to properly season your pan. Seasoning ensures that you've created the base of your non-stick layer. Start by pre-heating your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Take your skillet and lightly coat the inside of the pan with bacon lard, vegetable oil or shortening. Place the pan in the middle rack of the oven, turned face down. Place a cookie sheet in the lower rack to catch any grease that drips from the pan. Season the pan for 1 hour, remove and let cool. You may need to repeat the process a few times especially if you want to start out with cooking eggs.

When you're ready to clean the pan, use soap and water or try kosher salt. Many people are against using soap but you don't want rancid grease to spoil your next meal. .

Place the cleaned cast-iron frying pan on the heated burner of your stove for a minute or two to make sure that it is bone dry. While the pan is still hot and on the stove burner, lightly oil inside of pan (I mean a light coat) with a neutral cooking oil. I use a paper towel to spread the oil lightly over the pan.

Leave frying pan on the hot burner of stove for a few minutes. Remove from hot burner and wipe excess oil off the pan with a paper towel.

And that's it. I'd love to try and bake a cake with it so it may be the subject of a future blog post.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Dual In the Sun

A few weekends ago my boyfriend and I competed in a cycling relay to get amped up for racing season. The race we participated in was called "Dual in the Sun", a relay race for mountain/cyclo-cross enthusiasts in Simi Valley. It was an hour-long race around a 2.5 mile course that took you on fire roads, single-track and a couple hill climbs with rock outcroppings. It was fun but tough and I was thankful that it was a relay. :-)

We aptly named our team the Lucky 13 Hellcats and made some cool t-shirts. I have to thank Hieu Luong who created the logo - it's exactly how I imagined it would turn out.

Anyway, enjoy these pictures of the race and natural surroundings.

Go Hellcats!


Thursday, September 3, 2009

Labor Day

It's hard to believe that Labor Day is upon us. As I child, I always greeted it with mixed emotions. On one hand, it signaled the beginning of a new school year and the end of summer vacation. On the other hand, it meant I got to wear corduroys and sweaters, buy a backpack full of school supplies and anticipate Mother Nature's new wardrobe bedazzled in amber, scarlet and gold.

These days it comes as a solace - an extra day off, a day to sleep in, a time to catch up on things. My plans? I'll be heading off to a BBQ and bike race. And I definitely plan to take some photos. Speaking of which, I was looking through my archives and recently stumbled upon these shots of a cherry tree in my mom's backyard that remind me of Labor Day. The cherry them isn't particularly synonymous with Labor Day but I guess it reminds me of dining on burgers and BBQ treats underneath this tree.

I also included some pictures of one of my favorite spots to visit at the height of summer - Stonybrook Park in upstate NY.