Monday, August 30, 2010

How to Season Cast Iron BBQ Cooking Grates

My approach to barbecue maintenance has been pretty low-key in the past. Pre-heat it and take a steel brush to it to remove the residues from the last meal. However, I noticed that the cast iron grates on my two year old barbecue were already starting to rust and the metal was coming apart. I have to admit that I didn't do much beyond setting it up before I started cooking on it. Now I know that's because I didn't season the grills (or do any maintenance) so they only lasted a short time. So I found a replacement set online and then did some research on how to better maintain them. Here's what I found.

Cast iron barbecue grates, just like cast iron skillets, need to be seasoned and maintained. I found a number of websites that offered tips on seasoning barbecue grates. After doing the research, this is what I did:

Prior to first use, wash the grates thoroughly with a mild dishwashing liquid to remove the protective wax coating usually applied by most manufacturers to protect the iron during shipping. Rinse the grates in hot water and dry completely with a soft lint-free cloth or towel.

Pre-heat your oven to 300 degrees. Spread a thin coating of vegetable shortening over the entire surface of the grate (top, bottom, corners, sides) with a clean cotton rag that you don't mind throwing away when your done. Some people said olive oil or other oils would work but the Weber site specifically recommends:
A solid vegetable shortening is recommended for the initial seasoning. Spread a thin coating of solid vegetable shortening over the entire surface, including all corners, with a paper towel. Do not use salted fats such as butter or margarine
I started with paper towels as recommended but I quickly found that they began to shred and leave bits of paper behind. So I used part of an old cotton t-shirt that was in the rag pile. I also did my application outside and put about 4 sheets of newspaper down which was a good move.

Cover the oven shelves with foil and place the greased grates in the oven for 2 hours. After, turn off the oven and let the grates remain in the oven until cool. Repeat after grates are cool.

Once they cool for the second time, they are ready for use.

To maintain them, you should re-season them regularly.
The Weber web site says:
To prevent rusting, they should be re-seasoned frequently, particularly when new. If rust occurs, clean with a steel brush. Reapply vegetable shortening and heat as indicated above.
Before putting the barbecue away for the winter, grease the grates very lightly with vegetable shortening, then wipe dry with a lint-free towel, wrap tightly in plastic wrap, and store them in a dry place.

The Weber website does validate one of my practices:
Don't do a burn-off after you grill, but rather leave the cooking residues on the grates/griddle to keep a protective coating on the cast iron. Then do a burn-off just before you grill. Brush off charred residues with a steel brush rather than a brass brush.
Those "cooking residues" on most barbecues are going to consist of animal fat which is a great product for the cast iron. But, in this household, there's going to little to no meat cooked on the barbecue. So, perhaps, more frequent seasoning will be required.

Here's how it looked after seasoning.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Got Peaches?

Farm Fresh to You posted a link to a collection of peach recipes from the New York Times.

Hopefully, this link will stand the test of time.

The peaches in my backyard are getting close to being ripe.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Curried Butternut Squash and Carrot Bisque

The beauty of butternut squash is that it will last a long time. I simply store it in the pantry away from light and where it's fairly cool. I had a number of squash tucked away in the pantry from a number of months ago (more months than I want to admit!).

Last week's box brought some absolutely gorgeous carrots. The greens were incredible. So incredibly green and vibrant that I got online and researched whether they were edible. Turns out they are but it was more than I wanted to explore at the moment. If you want to find out more, click here.

So I decided to make a soup that I had made once before from Bon Appetit magazine. I figured I would stick it in the freezer for when it gets colder (even though it's almost been "soup weather" here in August!). The soup is an interesting contrast. The apple and honey give it a bit of sweetness while the Thai curry seasoning gives it a bit of a kick that warms you up when it's cold outside.

While making this soup I decided that it was high time to replace my hand immersion blender. A few years back I got a Breville from one of those high-end home magazines. It was cordless which I thought would be a plus. From the start it was annoying. There was a safety button that you had to press down for 1 second before you had to press down (with another finger) the start button. After a few months it also stopped working continuously. Every five seconds it would die and you had to start all over.
I had my eye on this one from Amazon and then I saw it for a better price during a sale at my local Macy's. I have not yet put the new one through the paces but the initial tinkering told me that there was a lot more power. I will gladly give up the cordless features for power and reliability.

Curried Butternut Squash and Carrot Bisque
  • 2 medium butternut squash, halved lengthwise and seeded
  • Olive oil
  • 2 Tbsp. butter
  • 1 small to medium yellow onion, chopped
  • 3-4 carrots, peeled and chopped
  • 1 apple, peeled, seeded, and chopped
  • 32 oz. broth
  • 1/4 cup half and half
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1/2 tsp. (spicy) to 1 tsp. (very spicy) Thai Red Curry paste
  • 2 tsp. honey
  • Preheat oven to 375 degrees
  • Brush cut side of squash with olive oil and place on a baking dish
  • Roast squash until tender, about 1 hour, and let cool
  • Melt butter in a large pot over medium heat
  • Add onions and saute for 1-2 minutes
  • Add carrots and apple and saute for five minutes
  • Add Thai curry paste and stir until the paste is mixed in well with other ingredients
  • Add broth, bay leaves, and squash to the pot and bring to a boil
  • Reduce heat to medium low simmer for 1 hour uncovered stirring regularly
  • Discard bay leaves
  • Puree soup in a blender or use an immersion mixer
  • Stir in half and half and honey
  • Season with salt and pepper as needed
Source: Bon Appetit

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Cherry Tomato Bruschetta

It's officially tomato season! The tomatoes in the box are starting to arrive. This week's box brought a pint of cherry tomatoes as well as some regular tomatoes. The fresh basil from this week and last needed to be used up so this recipe was an obvious one.

Bruschetta is a great way to enjoy fresh tomatoes and it's the perfect summer appetizer. So the pint of cherry tomatoes were used to make this recipe.

Cherry Tomato Bruschetta
  • 1 pint cherry tomatoes, finely chopped
  • sundried tomatoes, finely chopped (just about 2 tablespoons)
  • 2 large cloves of garlic, minced
  • lots of fresh basil leaves, chopped
  • 3 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar
  • generous grind of freshly ground black pepper
  • pinch of salt
Mix all ingredients in a bowl and stir to mix. Let it sit in the fridge for awhile to marry the flavors. Let sit at room temperature for a bit prior to serving. Spoon the mixture onto baguette or bread slices which can be toasted or not. Enjoy with some white wine on a hot afternoon.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Baba Ganouj

One of the items in the box this week was a solitary, purple eggplant. I like eggplant but it's not the easiest item in the world to cook--or cook right. Eggplant can be elusive. It can be bitter, mushy, and tasteless. At the same time, done right, it can be silky and satisfying.

So I did some research, determined to use this eggplant in the best possible way. I settled on Baba Ganouj (spelled a variety of ways). I was drawn to a Cook's Illustrated recipe because it talked about how grilling eggplant on the BBQ drew out flavors that the oven cannot. I must agree. Grilling the eggplant over an open flame imparts a subtle, smoky flavor. I used a gas grill and from what I read hot coals may even improve this recipe. The other ingredients are simple. For the tahini, I used Trader Joe's Tahini Sauce mostly because I wanted to avoid the supermarket.

Most recipes call for two eggplants. The recipe below is my version for just one.

Baba Ganouj:
  • 1 medium globe eggplant
  • 1-2 cloves garlic
  • 2 tsp. lemon juice
  • 1 tbsp. tahini
  • 1/2 tbsp. olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 2 tsp. chopped parsley leaves
  • pepper
  • paprika
  1. Preheat grill - I got it up to around 400 degrees
  2. Puncture the eggplant multiple times with a fork to prevent an "eggsplosion"
  3. Place eggplant directly on the grill grate turning occasionally for 20-30 minutes (I went for 30 minutes. The eggplant should be pretty sad looking and have some give as you press the back of a fork to it)
  4. Optional: I placed the garlic cloves in an envelope of foil and put in on the grill for about 15 minutes
  5. As eggplant cooks, prepare other ingredients
  6. When eggplant is done, remove from heat and let it rest for 10-20 minutes until it can be handled
  7. Using a fork, pull away the peel in strips
  8. Add the roasted eggplant to the food processor along with the other ingredients
  9. Mix until at desired consistency
  10. To present, drizzle some olive oil on top, sprinkle with paprika, and garnish with parsley leaves
  11. Serve with toasted baguettes or pita bread

Cook's Illustrated "Perfect Vegetables"

Alton Brown's recipe:

Eating Well Magazine:

Friday, August 6, 2010

Food Images from the Azores

We spent the last few weeks exploring the Azores. Here are some shots I took there.