Hamza Mbareche, scientist turns from lab exploration to delicious cast iron cooking experimentation
Some of the world’s top chefs cook with cast iron skillets. It’s a high-skill, high-reward choice, providing uniform heat retention that adds flavor and fun to favorite recipes.
As healthy-food influencer Lily Nichols has written, “Cast iron pans are noticeably hefty and their weight is part of their magic, allowing them to hold heat longer than most other pans. This works well, whether you’re searing a steak at a high temp, or simmering a stew on low.”
Cast iron is a great choice for cuisine innovators, whether they work to impress the folks at Michelin or friends and family at home. One such culinary magician is Hamza Mbareche, a Canadian scientist who spends days in the laboratory researching important topics related to air quality and atmospheric pollution.
In his free time, this renaissance man enjoys art, music, fitness — and cooking with a cast iron skillet. Recently Mbareche shared two of his favorite cast iron recipes with us:
Hamza Mbareche’s Cast Iron Nachos
1 lb. ground beef
1 onion, chopped
1 red bell pepper, chopped
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and chopped
1/2 tsp. ground cumin
1/2 tsp. chili powder
1/2 tsp. paprika
Salt and pepper, to taste
1 can (15 oz.) black beans, drained and rinsed
1 bag (10 oz.) tortilla chips
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
1 avocado, diced
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
Lime wedges, for serving
Heat a cast iron skillet over the campfire or a portable stove.
Add the ground beef and cook until browned, stirring occasionally to break up any clumps.
Add the onion, red bell pepper, and jalapeno pepper to the skillet and cook until the vegetables are tender.
Stir in the cumin, chili powder, paprika, salt, and pepper.
Add the black beans to the skillet and stir to combine.
Arrange the tortilla chips in a single layer on top of the beef mixture.
Sprinkle the shredded cheddar cheese over the tortilla chips.
Cover the skillet with a lid or aluminum foil and cook until the cheese is melted and bubbly, about 5-7 minutes.
Remove the skillet from the heat and top with the diced avocado and chopped cilantro.
Serve hot with lime wedges on the side.
Enjoy your delicious cast iron nachos while camping!
Hamza Mbareche’s Cast Iron Lasagna
9-12 lasagna noodles (depending on the size of your skillet)
2 tbsp olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 lb ground beef
1 jar (24 oz) pasta sauce
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
1 tbsp fresh basil, chopped
1 cup ricotta cheese
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
Fresh basil leaves for garnish
Preheat your oven to 375°F.
Cook lasagna noodles according to package instructions, then drain and set aside.
Heat olive oil in a cast iron skillet over medium heat. Add chopped onions and minced garlic and sauté until softened, about 5 minutes.
Add the ground beef to the skillet and cook until browned, breaking up any large chunks with a wooden spoon.
Pour the jar of pasta sauce into the skillet and add salt, black pepper, and chopped basil. Simmer for 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Remove the skillet from heat and spoon half of the meat sauce onto the bottom of the skillet.
Layer 3-4 lasagna noodles over the meat sauce, then spread a layer of ricotta cheese over the noodles.
Sprinkle a layer of shredded mozzarella cheese over the ricotta cheese.
Repeat layers of meat sauce, noodles, ricotta cheese, and mozzarella cheese until all ingredients are used up.
Cover the skillet with aluminum foil and bake in the oven for 25 minutes.
Remove the foil and bake for an additional 10-15 minutes until the cheese on top is melted and bubbly.
Garnish with fresh basil leaves and let cool for a few minutes before serving.