Monday, November 7, 2011

All my favorite fall fruits

Now is the magical time when all three of my favorite fruits come together at the market at the same time:

Figs are going out, the few still available are overripe, beginning to dry out, but still delicious. At this point, don't use them for cooking - enjoy them fresh while they last, or, if you are lucky to have a large tree, dry some for the winter.

Grapes are at the peak now. Super-sweet, juicy and wonderful as an accompaniment to wines and cheeses, in salads, or just eat them straight.

Persimmons are just coming in. My favorite Fuyu variety, that is not tannic and can be eaten still firm and crunchy, is good and sweet already. It's great sliced as a part of cheese and fruits board (think soft, sharp cheeses), sliced into salads, chopped into salsas, baked in a pie, or just eaten out of hand.

I don't even mention apples as my favorite fruit, they are too common, and everyone's favorites. But I eat a lot of apples now, when most varieties are at the peak: bake pies and tarts with Granny Smiths, Pippins, Honeycrisps, and tiny tart crab apples; slice Fujis, Honeycrisps, Rome Beauties, Empire, and McIntosh to serve with wine and cheese (lots of pairing options here), sauté Pippins and Granny Smiths to serve with savory meat dishes - poultry and pork work very well with apples; store some, wrapped in paper, in a box in a cool place, for the winter.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Location:San Rafael, CA

Friday, November 4, 2011

Old cast iron pots restoration project

I got these old, dirty and rusty cast iron pots in a second-hand store for a few dollars each. From a brief inspection and an Internet research, it appears that the small one used to be a Cape Cod fire starter (they would fill it with lamp oil, soak a lava rock with an iron handle in it overnight, then light it and put it in the fireplace to ignite the firewood), and the large one was a cooking pot used over an open fire (the outside was covered with sooth), both about 100 years old.

I loved the shapes of the pots, and I wanted to use them in my kitchen. How do I clean them?
A wire sponge and Barkeeper's Friend didn't achieve anything.
Medium-grade steel wool showed me that there may be some metal underneath the dirt and rust, and if I keep rubbing, in the next 500 hours or so I will see more of it.
A drill with a wire brush attachment blew a lot of rust iron dust in my face and cleaned some parts of the pots almost OK, but it couldn't reach inside the pots.

Finally, I took my pots to the local Porsche repair shop to be sandblasted. It took them a week, and they charged me as for Porsche repair, but the result was perfect, clean cast iron, stripped bare, beautiful dull-grey gun-metal color, and ready to start rusting again any moment now.

Now, I had to act fast. I took my pots home and started the seasoning process righ away.

A layer of rendered bacon fat, brush inside and out, wipe, into 400 degree oven. Lots of smoke. Let cool.

A layer of olive oil, brush inside and out, wipe, into 400 degree oven. Lots of smoke. Let cool.

Repeat three times.

The pots are gradually developing a shiny non-stick coat of polymerized fat, turning from dull grey to reddish-brown to black.

Now the 100 years old pots are ready to cook again. I already used the small one to cook white beans with bacon and chorizo on my gas grill, and made a mutton stew with onions, carrots, and rice, and a borsch, in the larger one, on the stove. Waiting for the weather to put them on the open fire. Or should I give up on the weather and use them in the fireplace?

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Location:San Rafael, CA