On the Side
Here we are, living in “prime rib country” (a phrase that should be a bumper sticker) and my husband is the rare bird who just doesn’t care for it. A steak, he reasons, needs its crust. So that’s why I found myself this morning cutting an entire rack of organically raised miniature Highlander prime rib into 2-inch-thick bone-in steaks. Later tonight we will grill them over the wood fire, for probably one of the last outdoor cookouts of the season. (I must admit, I’m partial to the charred edge of a good steak, too.)
Even though I enjoy almost nothing more that making big blow-out dinners for my friends, lately I’ve been struck by how home cooking takes its power from the memorable small things. It’s the private moments—the schmear of farm-fresh egg salad on sourdough toast, the plate of just-picked boiled-and-buttered green beans, the fragrance from the raspberry-picking basket—that you remember the most.
Last week’s cabbage salad, thrown together one afternoon in between recipe testing, is one of those great peripheral dishes. When I see a fresh cabbage my mouth begins to water, reminding me that 60 percent of the blood running in my veins is Germanic. When I worked in kitchens I made the staff meal vegetable from cabbage so often that they called me the Cabbage Queen.
Have you ever made coleslaw from fresh garden cabbage? I remember the first time, years ago, that I shredded a fresh cabbage from our garden. Juice dripped on my cutting board—juice!—and I thought I had raised some sort of strange cabbage hybrid. But no, that’s just what cabbage does when it’s fresh.
The other day I shaved a fresh chunk of cabbage and threw together this salad, inspired by one I had at Frankie’s 457 Spuntino on Court Street in Brooklyn. It couldn’t be simpler, or better, and is hardly a recipe—although I did write it down, as is my habit these days.
Then I poured a couple of cups of apple cider into the hot pan to deglaze it and scraped up the caramelized bits with a wooden spoon. Feeding the warm apples through the mill took about four minutes, and the sauce was as thick as if I’d spent three hours cooking down peeled, cored apples. I tested the pH and even with the sugar I had added, the apples themselves were acidic enough to be safe to can. I poured the puree into my largest pan and put it back in the oven to heat up, readied my jars and canned the sauce. The whole operation took about two hours and I think it’s some of the best applesauce I’ve ever made, and certainly the easiest. (I canned my pints for 25 minutes in a boiling water bath, but you can also freeze this sauce in heavy plastic ziploc bags.)