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Healthy Living: Cookin’ With Cast Iron

Cooking with cast iron isn’t just for frying chicken any more.

Using that beautifully black, superbly seasoned, wonderfully weighty cast iron skillet that your grandmother handed down is a smart way to help get chemicals out of your kitchen and more nutrients into your food.

Did you know that studies show that cooking your food, especially something acidic like tomato sauce, in a cast-iron skillet can increase iron content by as much as 20 times? Unlike some non-stick pans, cast iron doesn’t leach chemicals into your food, but it does release iron, supplementing the elemental mineral content in your cooking.  In addition, you remove the presence of PFCs (perfluorocarbons), a substance found in the non-stick coating of some pans that can be released into your food when you heat your pans over high heat or accidentally nick or scratch their surfaces.

Because well-seasoned cast iron is naturally non-stick, you can cook with less oil. To properly season your cast iron, wash with hot water after use (no dish soap, please), dry thoroughly and rub with a light application of cooking oil. Buff with a paper towel or soft cloth and store near your oven. In fact, because I have double ovens, I store my cast iron skillet in the oven I don’t usually use, but the heat from the unit helps keep my pan perfectly seasoned.  When I sauté something in my cast iron skillet, I often use no oil at all, unless it’s a touch of extra-virgin olive oil to add flavor.

Zucchini Tomato Gratin

1 tsp extra-virgin olive oil
2 sweet onions, sliced in rings
3 large zucchini, thinly sliced
3 large tomatoes, thinly sliced
1 cup panko
1/2 cup grated Parmesan or Romano cheese
2 TBS fresh basil or oregano

Place a layer of sweet onion rings on the bottom of cast iron skillet. Drizzle with 1 tsp extra-virgin olive oil.

Top onions with a layer of tomatoes and zucchini slices, alternating.

Toss panko with cheese and spread over vegetables.

Bake in a 425 degree oven until vegetables are tender and the top is golden brown and bubbly.

Remove from oven and sprinkle with fresh herbs.

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