(non-breaking news): Cast Iron Skillets are Magic

I realize that this is not new information. My grandmother was loyal to her cast iron skillet and would talk about things like "seasoning the pan" and other cryptic phrases that scared me off. I had found many a recipe that recommended using a cast iron skillet, and as long as it wasn't one of the stovetop to oven ones, I ignored the advice thinking, "how different can it be, I have a skillet that works fine". Oh. It's different. I stumbled into using one when we went camping last year and I got one for campfire cooking. I brought a bag of the dry ingredients for The Compassionate Cook pancakes pre-mixed in a ziploc. I had the soy milk, water, oil and vanilla along and mixed it up there in the woods. Those were the best mother f-ing pancakes that I ever had. At the time, I thought it was because we were cooking and eating pancakes at a campsite in the middle of Yosemite valley, and I'm sure that was a bit part of it. However, when I got home, I made stovetop pancakes with the same recipe on that same skillet, and there, in the middle of my apartment in Los Angeles- were the 2nd most amazing pancakes that I ever had. Which proved beyond a doubt that it was the skillet's doing. I have used it since for stir fries, it's particularly amazing at browning tofu (for particularly wet tofu, I have baked it in the skillet and it is to die for). It comes in handy for most everything (though I read that tomato based dishes are a no-no in it). I seasoned it once, and it could use another round of that when it cools off enough to put the oven on (I followed the Martha god's instructions from her Cooking School book, but she has instructions here). To convince you of the magic of it, I challenge you to try this potato recipe. It's great with a tofu scramble or savory breakfast. I would even go as far as to serve it on the side of a comfort food dish like Salsbury Seitan. It is insanely good! Like eyes into the back of your head good. There are crispy pieces of potato that are as crunchy as chips, and then the softer centers that are so creamy and good that any condiment just gets in the way. Also, it's quite easy, you'll need: • 1 bag (use about 9*) of the small tri-color potatoes at Trader Joes. If you don't have one close by, most stores have something like this, it has the small variety of white, yellow and purple potatoes. • Salt and Pepper to taste • Butter or vegan margarine (one of the bi-products of going back to vegetarian vs vegan is that I started to use butter, I'm not proud, but it may be what makes these so amazing). • your magic cast iron skillet Wash potatoes well and slice about 9 of them width wise depending on size varying from paper thin to about 1/8" thick max. There's a magic combo of how many you can use without crowding the pan and making it too hard to get the right consistency and crunchy parts that you're after- too many potatoes in the pan and it won't get there. I mix the colors up after slicing because it's prettier that way Heat the skillet on medium heat, put a few pats of butter or margarine in the pan and then layer the slices all along the bottom. Sprinkle salt and pepper on the first layer and put 3-4 more pats of butter or margarine on top. Repeat for 2 more layers of potatoes. I haven't timed how long this takes, but it's awhile- at least 30 minutes. What you'll need to do it let those taters sizzle away in the pan and flip when you have some browning and crunchiness on them. They will start to clump, fall apart a bit, there will be some stuck together, free those up from time to time to get everyone some quality skillet time. you'll know they're done when they've shrunk down a bit and there are some curled up crunchy bits in there coupled with what looks like scalloped potatoes. Test for salt and pepper, season if necessary and serve immediately. These re-heat okay, but there's nothing like them when they're fresh out of the amazing wonderous cast iron skillet!


Thanks to this here hash, from this day (actually Monday) forward- all Mondays in the J-R household shall be Savory Morning Monday! (catchy, yes?) I found that Tofurkey (swoon) has a vegan breakfast sausage, which is fantastic news to me because even though I've been known to fall off the wagon and eat cheese every blue moon, eggs are an absolute no for me- and the faux sausages that I had loved so much from Morningstar Farms have eggs as one of the main ingredients. And, call me cynical- but seeing as they're owned by Kraft, I can't see those coming from free range happy birds.

Anyway, tofurkey's sausage is good- a bit sweet, but it works great in this hash. I feel silly listing directions as it's basically pan fried potatoes with some jazz in it, but here you are anyway. I also made the La Dolce Vegan scrambler which is great mushed into this hash too. A bit of wheat toast on the side and you really don't need to eat until 'Left Over Savory Morning Tuesday'.

• 1 large baking potato, chopped into small cubes
• 1/2 green bell pepper, diced
• 1/2 red onion, diced
• 1 roma tomato, diced
• Tofurkey breakfast sausage
• salt and peppa to taste
• about 1T of oil (mine was too oily with more- I found I cannot cook this in my non non-stick pan without serious stickage)

Sautee the onions in oil for a few minutes, add the potatoes- covering the pan will make them cook faster. Cook until potatoes are firm-soft. Add breakfast sausage, green pepper, tomato and salt and pepper (about 1/2 t each). Cook until peppers are firm-soft and tomatoes are close to falling apart.

Also, if I were to get all Nancy on this (I've been known to individually flip these little potatoes to get all sides evenly cooked), I'd cook the 'sausage' separately to get a little bit of a crust on it before adding it to the potatoes, but with making the scramber as well, I just threw it in. Yup, I can be crazy too.

Samosas (again)

Okay, you'll see from my other samosa posts HERE and HERE that I've been trying to nail this down for awhile. And, I have good news to report- I found a good samosa exterior! And mostly a good interior, though it needs tinkering. The interior is the Joy of Cooking recipe that I did last time, only I used less lemon juice (very good), and a teaspoon of coriander seeds (good, but still not spiced enough). The whole inside is so close, but needs way more characteristically Indian spices in it. It's just too plain. Too white tater.

The chutney is also the same as last time, still good, only I would definitely stick to serrano only. The recipe said jalapeño was okay, so I used two of those and a serrano, and it was too jalapeño in flavor.

The exterior was a brand of frozen samosa dough from India Sweets and Spice here in L.A., it is by 'Prime Mazedar' and is called simply, "Samosa Pastry" and is a product of Pakistan. They work great pan fried (not deep fried, I tried to stay minimally healthier-ish). They stick a bit, but not nearly as much as the phyllo dough and they taste way more like a samosa- the phyllo just didn't taste like it was meant to be an Indian appetizer. I make no claims of authenticity, I'm a white, American mutt of European descent, but I've eaten my share of Indian restaurant samosas, and none were made with phyllo. Also, if you aren't up for making the samosas yourself, Indian Sweets has boxed Pillsbury ones (presumably imports). It's cool to see the Dough Boy on a samosa box though.

Aloo Gobi

We've been making this one for years, and it's amazing. I feel safe in listing the recipe here since it's pretty public, but I highly recommend going to the source- which is the DVD extras for the movie Bend It Like Beckham. The director, Gurinder Chadha is British and of Indian descent. There's a part in the film (which is adorable) where the mother is pressuring the daughter to give up football and learn how to cook and do womanly things to prepare for marriage. The daughter says something to the effect of, "anyone can make Aloo Gobi, but no one can bend a ball like Beckham!"

Based off of that quote, the director created an extra where she divulges this Aloo Gobi recipe and cooks it in front of her mom and aunt. It's so darling, you can see her relatives desire to jump in and cook with (for her)- it's worth renting the dvd just to see this. Not to mention that it's damn good Gobi!

It's great served over basmati rice with naan on the side. In the video, Chadha recommends eating it the next day on toast for breakfast. Davey swears by this- I can't imagine it, but whatevs!

Beckham Gobi:

- Vegetable Oil for sauteeing
- 1 lg yellow onion, chopped
- 1 lg bunch fresh coriander stalks (Coriander is Cilantro- you can make salsa or Pico de Gallo with the leaves)
- Green chilis diced (add to taste)
- 1 lg head of cauliflower, chopped
- 3 large potaoes peeled and cubed
- 1 can tin whole peeled tomatoes (I get the double size- 30 oz or so, I think), grated- reserve some juice
- about 1" fresh ginger, peeled and grated
- 2 cloves garlic, chopped
- 1 T cumin seeds
- 2 t Tumeric
- 2 t Salt
- 1 t paprika
- 1 1/2 t Garam Masala

Sautee onions and cumin seeds in oil until onions are creamy translucent, stirring frequently. Add chopped coriander stalks, tumeric, salt and paprika. Add chopped chilis to taste. Stir in grated tomatoes and some of the juice from the can into the mix. Add ginger, garlic, and mix thoroughly. Add potatoes and cauliflower to sauce with a few T water to keep from sticking. Thoroughly coat. Cover and cook on low heat for about 1 hour, 20 minutes until potatoes are cooked, stirring often. Add garam masala, turn off heat and let stand for about 5 minutes before serving.