Two successes

I went off to town Friday in search of a few groceries, to make a bank deposit, and to do assorted miscellaneous errands. I had originally planned to do laundry as well, but it’s amazing what you can put off if you set your mind to it. One of the benefits of my former consumerist lifestyle is a surfeit of linens (both bedroom and kitchen), underwear, levis, sweats, and all those necessary things. And it does seem a shame to only put 22 lbs. of laundry in a 40 lb. washer, so I’m sure I made the right decision.

Newport is a pain in the butt to get around in, so I had carefully planned my route and sequence of errands (if I’m starting to sound anal, sorry, but I do these things now–too little to worry about, I suspect). The main coast highway runs right through the middle of town, and in the summer turning left except at a left-turn light can be a challenge. I haven’t dented a fender in several decades, and I’l like to keep it that way (part of my bank deposit was a couple of refunds from our insurance company for being such good drivers).

But I got to town a few minutes earlier than the first store I wanted to visit opened. All the way into town I’d be thinking about (fantasizing, really) a truly fine SMALL cast-iron skillet. Good new cast-iron cookware is almost non-existent. The stuff I like was made by Griswold and Wagner, and neither company is still around selling new stuff, as far as I can determine.

The cast iron made in Asia is chancy for cooking–the Asians seems to have a different attitude toward embedded petroleum products in recycled iron than I do. And the new stuff made in the U. S., like Lodge, is hopeless. I have no desire to spend the first two weeks I own something polishing it out to the needed smooth and glossy bottom. So I look for the good old pans that somehow didn’t get totally wrecked.

Being a few minutes early, I thought, what the heck, I’ll go over to the antique barn and see if they have any Pyrex cookware worth buying.

They didn’t, but what I did find was a #5 (about 7″ diameter) Griswold cast-iron skillet in nearly perfect condition for about $12. (When I brought it home, Ben guessed I’d paid about $20). It’s in fine enough condition to be an egg skillet, so I spent partof this morning giving it a good cleaning with steel wool and reseasoning it with olive oil. It’s a fine piece of cookware. I can hardly wait to try it out as an omelet pan. It’s that well preserved.

Last evening I went with a friend to a writers’ meeting up Shot Pouch Creek. The group that sponsored it, the Springcreek Project, maintains a retreat there for people who want to escape and write. They do many other things there as well, including multi-disciplinary projects combining art and science.

Last night was, I think, their “hooray, we’ve survived another year” meeting. They furnished a wonderful salad bar from a local catering company (including a chicken salad that I would have been proud to have claimed), and they asked attendees to provide either an oeur d’ouvre (if I spelled that right it’s purely accidental) or a dessert.

At this point, you may be remembering how many berries I’m trying to deal with, so dessert was a natural. But I’m tired of baking tarts, and frankly it’s been too bloody hot to fire up the woodstove and bake anything. But I did have some very good heavy cream, and in anticipation of this event, I bought a sliced poundcake while I was in town. I had some very good golden sherry, and what my brain settled on (reviewing the options) was what I am henceforth calling a “lazy cook’s trifle.”

It got a 5-star rating from participants (she noted modestly), and although I took what I thought was enough for twice as many people as the 30 or so there, I didn’t bring any home.

For all you adventuresome folks, here’s all it takes:

    • A whole bunch of good berries
    • Some fairly dry cake of some sort, like my pound cake
    • A whole bunch of lightly whipped cream
    • A little sherry
    • A little bit of sugar (for tossing with the berries if needed)

Layer in a big-enough pan to hold everything. Forget the “Make it beautiful in a clear glass bowl, footed ideally” thing. It tastes just as good without worrying about that. Start with the poundcake, add berries (my first fruit layer was blueberries that I had tossed with a tiny bit of sugar and a few drops of lemon juice in a moderately warm skillet just until the berries were wonderfully dark and swollen with juice), cover with lightly whipped heavy cream (don’t whip it to stiff peaks, almost butter, because it tastes so much better if it’s soft) with just a smidge of sugar to sweeten the cream added right before it’s ready.

Then lay down another layer of pound cake, sprinkle it with some good sherry (light-handedness is everything here–I doubt that I used more than 2 ozs. of sherry for my 3-qt. or so dessert) and top with another layer of berries (for my second layer I used some really ripe strawberries that I had cut up and tossed with a little sugar to free up the juice.

Then top with more cream and some fruit that you cleverly reserved for a garnish–a few dozen of those very dark and rich blueberries and some strawberry halves with the stems intact.

At the risk of sounding even more immodest than I already have, I must say that it was wonderful. I might even do it again.

But now I have to go off to e-Bay, where I’m fooling with some Pyrex (I only buy cast iron I can see).

6 Responses to “Two successes”

  1. Barbara Says:

    I’m a fool for good old cast iron, and aside from what my mom gave me, I’ve had some good luck at garage and yard sales.

    Oh my, that trifle sounds lovely.

  2. Marianne Says:

    Barbara, I probably have more cast iron than I will ever use, but I still can’t pass up a really good pot or skillet. And I use all I have.

    And the trifle WAS lovely (and yummy, too).

  3. jackiesgarden Says:

    I often see cast iron pans at the thrift store. I rarely use mine anymore, but for some reason,am not ready to get rid of them. Right now they are just one more thing stored upstairs. I never fry things anymore, or I’d have to use them for sure. Remember Sunday fried chicken? UMMMMMM

  4. Marianne Says:

    Jackie, I use mine nearly everyday. I gave up on aluminum cookware years ago, and my kitchen has cast iron, stainless steel, and glass. I don’t do a lot of “frying,” but I do saute things like my fresh squash. The cast iron stores heat and makes it perfect for things like omelettes.

  5. Dausta Says:

    I too am a fan of cast iron…. One of my favorites is a pot roast with veggies cooked in a cast iron dutch oven….

  6. Marianne Says:

    Dausta, there is no other way to properly cook a pot roast. . .;^}

Leave a Reply to Marianne Cancel reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: