a community newspaper serving western Albemarle County

Seasonal Flavors: A Seasoned Skillet Is A True Friend

By Denise Zito

I hope you own a black, cast-iron frying pan. I couldn’t live without mine. Not only does it produce crispy brownness on a piece of meat or a fried egg, it is a great source of dietary iron. That’s right—your cast iron skillet will provide iron in a form that the body can use for making red blood cells. And, it’s also the original, organic non-stick surface.

My cast iron pan lives on my stovetop along with the tea kettle. I never put it away and I almost never wash it with soap. I just rinse it out with clear water or wipe it with a paper towel and put it back on the stove. How is this possible? I believe it is the ‘seasoning,’ that is, the coating of oil that builds up on the surface of the pan, contributing to even cooking and easy clean up.

It’s also a nearly lifetime purchase. I got my first pan in 1973 at a hardware store and used it until 2001 when I dropped it during a household move and it split in two. The second pan I bought has now been in use since 2001 and I am more careful with it!

If you purchase a new pan, cover the inside surfaces with a thin layer of vegetable oil and let it sit for a day. Wipe that out and then start using it. Occasionally I have to re-season my pan after the visit of an over-zealous houseguest who scrubs mine with soapy water.

I roast small chickens in my frying pan. I fry eggs in it. I never ever put an acidic food like tomato sauce in it—off taste and it removes the seasoning. But perhaps my favorite use for the cast iron pan is the frittata, an Italian version of the omelet. This is breakfast, appetizer or dinner, served hot or served room temperature. It’s a summer delight.

Frittata

  • ¼ cup olive oil

  • 2 cups chopped fresh spinach, or Swiss chard or red pepper
  • ½ cup chopped onion
  • 3 cloves crushed garlic
  • 6 beaten eggs
  • Whatever fresh herbs are available
  • ½ cup seasoned bread crumbs
  • ½ cup grated hard cheese (Romano or Parmesean)

Preheat the oven to 350° F

Sautée the onion till soft in the oil, add the vegetable of choice and the garlic in your black cast iron frying pan. In a separate bowl, beat the eggs and add the crumbs, herbs and cheese.

Add the egg mixture to the vegetables in your black cast iron frying pan. Cook gently for five minutes and then bake for 15 to 20 minutes longer until the eggs are set.

If your black cast iron frying pan is properly seasoned, you’ll be able to slide the frittata onto a plate for serving.

 

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