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    What’s a lighter alternative to cast iron?

    Aaron Hutcherson & G Daniela Galarza

    THE WASHINGTON POST – Every week, Aaron Hutcherson and Becky Krystal answer questions and provide practical cooking advice in a chat with readers. This week, Becky was off, so G Daniela Galarza stepped in. Aaron and Daniela write and test recipes for Voraciously, The Washington Post’s team dedicated to helping you cook with confidence.

    Here are edited excerpts from a recent chat:

    Q: I’ve loved cooking with cast iron for many years, but have torn a cartilage in my wrist and am finding the pans just too heavy. Can you recommend a material that would be lighter but still well-performing? I had more than enough experience with thin stainless in my lower-budget days.

    A: Have you looked into carbon-steel pans? They’re lighter than cast iron but perform similarly. (However, they aren’t as great with heat retention).
    – Aaron Hutcherson (AH)

    Q: I need a sweet/pastry type addition for a brunch later this month. Normally, I would make cinnamon rolls, but they’re not super friendly to make ahead/sit for a while during the party. Any suggestions?

    A: For something a bit fancy, but which relies on store-bought dough for ease, consider danishes.

    A cast iron skillet. PHOTO: THE WASHINGTON POST

    Another option is a quick bread or cake. Banana bread is always a welcome option, but you could also do something seasonal like a lemon peach pound cake. – G Daniela Galarza (GDG)

    Q: I am hosting five people for dinner. I am trying to plan my menu and want some help. I am a pretty good cook, but want a menu that can largely be prepared in advance (well roasting can be done while guests there) to avoid having to do a lot in the kitchen while guests are over.
    Overly spicy things are out. And, of course, seasonal.
    I have a yard full of herbs at the ready (plenty of both Italian and Thai basil, rosemary, mint, Greek and Italian oregano, tarragon, parcel, bronze fennel and parsley).

    A: Here are some ideas: For a starter, how about a summery tomato panzanella? It can be made in advance, just don’t toss in the bread too early so it doesn’t get too soggy. Another option: Gazpacho or salmorejo can be blended and kept cool in the fridge until guests arrive.

    I’ve been cooking a lot of whole fish lately, because it’s easy and fast and delicious – and you can use whatever aromatics or herbs you’d like to flavour it. A simple green salad could be all the main course needs. – GDG

    Q: School is around the corner. What dishes should parents consider teaching their kids to prepare and what age? Plus what was your specialty dish as a child?

    A: I’m not a parent, so take my advice with a grain of salt, but I’d start with whatever food your kid loves.

    That way, they’re more likely to be interested in learning how to make it. I was always in the kitchen as a child, so I’ve been cooking for as long as I can remember.

    I started mixing things, then perhaps graduated to peeling and cutting potatoes before moving on to cooking on the stove. – AH

    Q: Would melon pieces freeze well? Thinking about the varieties of honeydew and cantaloupe – I’m guessing watermelon wouldn’t hold up well.

    A: You can freeze any type of melon, but it will be quite icy when you defrost it, so it’s best to blend it into drinks, smoothies or cold soups from frozen. – GDG

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