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Cart Smarts: Broken oven calls for cast iron

October 11, 2017

When I tried cooking a spinach lasagna and it still appeared frozen after an hour, I concluded the oven must be broken. We called a local appliance repair guy and he said he’d buy a replacement piece, but suggested we start pricing out new appliances. Well, the sticker shock was enough to force us into fixing it instead.

In the meantime, I am making all of our meals out of the toaster oven or on top of the stove. Our cast-iron skillet has become my go-to pan during this time.

The cast-iron skillet provides even heat across the pan and it works great for searing meat and creating that delicious caramelized flavor. My favorite feature of the cast-iron is that it can be transferred from the stovetop to the oven for continued cooking. Granted, that advantage doesn’t come in handy when your oven is broken!

If you are interested in purchasing your first cast-iron skillet, here are some tips:

• Season your pan. The process of baking oil into the iron helps create a natural nonstick surface. To season your pan, clean it first, then use a paper towel to cover the entire surface with a thin layer of oil. Bake it in a 200-degree oven for 20 minutes.

• Clean it the right way. First, wipe out the extra food with paper towels. If you need to scrub it, use a rag or scrub brush, but don’t add any soap. Otherwise, your next meal will taste like soap!

• Dry it completely. Avoid rust by drying it completely with a kitchen towel.

You can use your cast-iron for meat, entrees and even desserts! I can’t wait to try this skillet lasagna recipe. My oven doesn’t hold heat, but hopefully the broiler still works…

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Veggie skillet lasagna

3 ounces (1-1/2 cups) farfalle bow ties pasta

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 small onion, chopped

8-ounce package cremini mushrooms, chopped

1 small zucchini, sliced

1 small yellow summer squash, sliced

1/2 cup green bell pepper, chopped

2 cloves garlic, minced

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

24-ounce jar three-cheese marinara sauce

8-ounce package shredded mozzarella cheese (2 cups)

1 ounce Asiago cheese, shredded (1/4 cup)

2 tablespoons snipped fresh basil

Preheat broiler. Cook pasta according to package directions. Drain and set aside.

Heat olive oil over medium heat in a 12-in. cast-iron skillet. Add onion, mushrooms, zucchini, summer squash, bell pepper, garlic and salt. Cook and stir for 5 minutes. Add marinara sauce and pasta; stir to combine. Bring mixture to boiling; reduce heat. Simmer, uncovered, for 5 minutes. Sprinkle with cheeses.

Place skillet in oven. Broil 4 inches from heat for 3 minutes or until cheese is bubbly. Sprinkle with basil before serving.

Serves 6

Source: Hy-Vee Seasons magazine, October 2017