Driving back from Southampton to Hampton Bays a few years ago, Ron and I came across an elderly gentleman who had some old treasures for sale beside the highway. He had an old and very rusted cast iron Griswold No. 8 Tite-Top Dutch Oven for sale. I hummed and hawed and we finally decided to buy it for $55 (that was before cast iron became incredibly popular, especially for an antique piece). I was just learning about the magic of cooking with cast iron at that time and wasn’t sure how I would clean it up, what I would cook in it, never mind how we would transport this heavy piece back to Cabo from New York. At the time, I also mistakenly thought that I’d paid too much for this old rusted pot.
I wasn’t in New York with Ron last summer, so I decided to take on the task of rejuvenating this old piece this year if I possibly could. I googled to find if there was any information on how to clean rusty cast iron and there was a great deal of resource material available, thank heavens. I chose one that looked simple and used natural cleaning ingredients. Here’s what it looked like when I started:
I made a paste of baking soda and water and spread it over the entire pot; bottom, lid and insert.
The next step was to pour white vinegar over each component separately and start scrubbing with a Brillo pad until the rust was lifted. It took lots of elbow grease, but when I rinsed everything off, the results were amazing!
I find the best thing to season (to seal the surface and give your cast iron a beautiful black patina) and maintain (apply after every use) my cast iron with is ghee (clarified butter) as it has a high smoke point and keeps the rust away. Here is the finished product:
I was thrilled with how it turned out! I wonder who owned it before and what delicious food was cooked in it. I love that the pot has some history! It was definitely worth the money we paid and I’m very excited to bake some sourdough bread in it very soon!
I love to connect people, whether it’s through technology, introductions within my network, or with the greatest human connector of all – FOOD! I’m excited to announce that my three national best-selling cookbooks and the complete trilogy are now available on Amazon as Kindle books!
I had decided some time ago that I didn’t want to reprint the books when I ran out of inventory and it was a COVID inspiration that set things in motion to put them online. Although I wrote the books years ago, the recipes are as relevant today as they were then and I still love “cooking with fire”, “food with attitude, and sharing flavorful food with friends and family. Because I was working in the petroleum industry, all of my vacation and free time was spent doing writing, testing, research, marketing, promotion, media interviews (over 400 world-wide), radio (over 100) and television (over 50) appearances, book signings and demos (over 100) throughout North America and the globe.
I attribute our successful promotional exposure to my publicist and dear friend, Debbie Black, who did a brilliant job of constant promotion for the company, the books, and my product line.
It was a hectic time in my life, but I am extremely grateful for the experience and knowledge I gained, the people I had the pleasure of meeting, the places I was able to visit, but most of all, for gifting me with a love of entrepreneurship and risk-taking. Had I just stayed doing the Joint Venture work I love in Petroleum, my world would be much smaller and I never would have stretched myself as I did through my books and my business. I am truly grateful.
Ron and I had the most amazing experience the other week! I mentioned to our dear friend, Gabriela, that we had never witnessed the release of baby turtles here in Baja. She cleared her calendar and took us out to San Cristobal Ranch in the late afternoon to ensure that situation was remedied and that we had a hands-on education as to the work they are doing on their property.
Her husband, Rene, owns the land and is the President of a non-profit organization called Asupmatoma, which started their environmental protection back in the early 1990’s. The organization was formalized as a marine turtle center in 1995 and they focus their efforts on protection and conservation of marine turtles.
In addition to the protection and conservation aspects of the work that Asupmatoma is doing, their vision is to promote and increase the active participation and technical training for the local and foreign communities. They have one full-time biologist on staff, and dedicated volunteers come to work on the project from Mexico and far beyond.
The Sea of Cortez and Baja California are home to five species of sea turtles (there are only eight in the world!): Hawksbill, Loggerhead, Leatherback, Green and Olive Ridley – all of which are endangered. It is believed that each mother turtle returns to lay her eggs on the same beach where, at least a decade before, she was born. The males, on the contrary, never set foot on land again and live their entire lives in the ocean.
Under the cover of night, the females leave the sea and search for a place on the beach where they were born (an absolute miracle they are able to find their birthplace!) to lay their eggs. With their powerful fins, they dig holes in the sand and make a nest into which they lay up to 150 eggs, one by one. Once the eggs are deposited, the turtles cover their nests with sand, erasing their trace, and return to the sea.
The team at Asupmatoma patrol the miles of beach to spot the mothers or find their tracks to the nests where they lay their eggs. The eggs are moved to incubation areas to protect them from man, predatory animals, and natural phenomena (Rene and Gabriela recounted moving the incubation nests during one hurricane to protect the turtle eggs!). Each new nest is carefully marked to show the species, when the eggs were laid, how many eggs were moved, etc. which makes it almost appear like a little cemetery and not a birthplace.
After 45 days or so, depending on the species, the baby turtles begin their difficult struggle for life. Still in the nest, buried a foot to two feet under the surface of the sand, they emerge from their shells one by one. Then, they crawl to the surface and begin their trek to the sea to begin the next phase of their lives.
We got to be part of the “cleaning” of the nests the day we visited. The vast majority of the babies made their way to the surface and had been released earlier in the day, but some did not. Our job was to carefully dig out the nests and find any babies that were still alive, and clean out the broken eggs and dead turtles that didn’t make it. I can’t tell you how exciting it is to find a baby and feel it wiggling in your hand! With a “Hi guy, welcome to the world!”, I found fifteen in my nest and Ron found three.
Because these little fellows hadn’t crawled up to the surface themselves, it was important to let them move around in the plastic container we put them in to get them strong and to “imprint” them as to their surroundings so the females could find their way back to lay their eggs in a decade or so (amazing!).
After a half-hour or so, we took the babies we’d found to the shore and released them so that they could hurry to the sea to begin their new life.
It’s a miracle that they’ve made it this far, but even more incredible to realize that of one thousand baby turtles, probabilities predict that only one will reach adulthood. Good luck and God speed, little ones! You are truly a miracle and we feel honored to have witnessed a small part of it.
To learn more about Asupmatoma, how you can participate or to donate to the important work they are doing, please contact email@example.com or visit their website at www.asupmatoma.org/en/.
The best thing that a recent visitor from California brought down with him was a spice mix from Trader Joe’s called “Everything but the Bagel Sesame Seasoning Blend”. It is delicious on so many things, from fried eggs, to sliced tomatoes and avocadoes and any cooked or roasted vegetable. The sky is literally the limit. I sprinkle it on my homemade sourdough roasted garlic and Kalamata olive bread before I bake it, on toast or a bagel topped with cream cheese, guacamole, salad, popcorn – you name it. BUT, it comes in a small container that empties quickly.
What do you do when there’s no Trader Joe’s down the street when you’re living in Cabo San Lucas for the season and, because of COVID, we have few visitors this season as well. The answer is that you read the label and MAKE IT YOURSELF! Here’s the mixture I came up with:
Ron and I were introduced to a delicious new sauce called zhoug (pronounced zoog) when we were visiting our friends, Bonnie and Don, in Long Beach, California early this year – just before COVID-19 changed the world.
Bonnie is the queen of making fabulous food – FAST! I treat cooking as an exercise in meditation and I putter and play while I create. Bonnie, on the other hand, has learned the art of getting meals prepared quickly so she can move on to do other things she’d rather spend time on. She picked the zhoug sauce up at Trader Joe’s and Ron and I absolutely fell in love with it. We picked up extra to bring home to Mexico, but the supply didn’t last very long. The answer, then, was to figure out how to make it myself!
Zhoug originated in Yemen but is now enjoyed in many other parts of the world (our friend, Henry, remembers having it while living in Israel). I’m a huge fan of chimichurri, but find that zhoug is brighter, spicier, greener and fresher. I use it on and in everything, literally, and it makes the BEST guacamole when mixed into mashed avocado. Using a food processor, this literally takes 10 minutes to make and clean up. Give it a whirl – literally!
3 cloves garlic
2 Serrano chiles, seeds and membranes removed and cut in big chunks
1 large bunch cilantro, washed and dried
1 tsp. ground cumin
1/2 tsp. ground cardamom
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
1/2 tsp. dried crushed chile flakes
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 tbsp. fresh lemon juice
Place all ingredients (except olive oil and lemon juice) into the bowl of a food processor and pulse until chopped fine. Add olive oil and lemon juice and blend into a coarse paste.
Store in a sealed, glass jar in your refrigerator for up to a week (if it lasts that long!).