love + red cabbage

Last year I read the book My Berlin Kitchen: A Love Story (with Recipes) by Luisa Weiss. To me it was one of those books you look forward to picking up each day and are truly saddened when it’s finished. It’s a memoir written by a former publishing assistant/cookbook editor/food blogger ( who discovers that for her, the key to dealing with life’s ups and downs is to be found in the kitchen. Her touching memories of simple childhood meals and stories of life, love and food truly resonated with me. And the glorious yet simple recipes at the end of each chapter made me want to head directly to the kitchen.

My Berlin Kitchen isn’t the first food centric novel I’ve been drawn to. A quick scan of my bookshelf and you’ll read titles like Five Quarters of the Orange by Joanne Harris, Rosemary and Bitter Oranges by Patrizia Chen, A Year in Provence by Peter Mayle, Licking the Spoon by Candace Walsh and of course Under the Tuscan Sun by Frances Mayes (the book, not the movie). Each story focusing as much on the characters as the meals they prepare and enjoy. When I finished My Berlin Kitchen I jumped right into trying out some of the recipes. The very first one I made (and the one I still like best) is the braised red cabbage.

Let me begin by saying that my husband is a self-proclaimed red cabbage hater. A pint of German beer… You bet! Bratwurst… He’ll take two. Spätzle… Stop talking and start serving. But traditional German-style red cabbage… Nope, no thanks, not now, not ever. I on the other hand love braised red cabbage but I had never attempted to make it. The recipe sounded so easy, truly requiring minimal time and effort to prepare, that I figured it was worth a try. And so what if I was the only one who ate it! (Perhaps I could bribe my kids into giving it a shot, it would after all be my daughters favorite color.) But just to stack the deck in my favor I was sure to serve it along with tasty chicken sausages and of course mashed potatoes. How could they possibly resist!

Turns out they couldn’t. While the kids weren’t exactly knocked-out by the cabbage they both ate it without much complaint, perhaps due in large part to my husbands declarations of “It’s good, you’ll like it!” as he went back to the kitchen for seconds…

Braised Red Cabbage
Even proclaimed red cabbage haters will like this recipe. Yeah, it’s that good.

red cabbage2

2 tbsp. butter
1 medium onion, halved and thinly sliced
1 medium (2 pounds) red cabbage, quartered, cored and thinly sliced
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
2 tbsp. yellow mustard seeds
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
3/4 cup dry red wine
1 medium apple, coarsely grated
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. black pepper

  1. Melt the butter in a large sauté pan over medium heat. Add the onions and sauté until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the cabbage and toss until it begins to wilt, 2 to 3 minutes.
  2. Add the brown sugar, mustard seeds, vinegar, wine and apple. Stir to combine, and season with salt and pepper.
  3. Cover and allow to simmer until the cabbage is soft, about 45 minutes. Adjust seasonings and serve.

*adapted from the wednesday chef


a pie in the hand…

“Candy might be sweet, but it’s a traveling carnival blowing through town. Pie is home. People always come home.”
~ Pushing Daisies

I have a confession to make; I love pie but I never make my own pie crust. I know I should, I realize that it’s not really all that difficult and that homemade is far superior to store bought, but somehow I’ve just never gotten around to giving it a whirl. However I promise that one day soon I will make the effort. I promise that one day soon I will make my crust from scratch, however today is not that day.

A few weeks ago the kids and I went apple picking. The very first thing they requested we make with our bounty was apple pie. No problem! It’s not hard to make a classic apple pie, in fact regardless of your culinary skills I guarantee you could make a successful one. Really! All it really requires is peeling and dicing a couple of apples, throwing them together with sugar and a few spices, dumping the whole shebang into a pie crust and voilà— something bubbly and delicious an hour later. But that wasn’t the kind of apple pie I had in mind. No, I wanted a pie that set itself apart from past pies, an apple pie that would keep them talking. I considered all the possibilities and decided that we’d start by making individual hand pies rather than one big one. (I had recently bought this nifty little pocket pie crimper that I thought would perfect for the job.) But I knew their cute size wouldn’t be enough to make them stand out so, I added some diced caramels and a touch of sea salt to the filling— yup, I’m crazy like that.

They were heavenly. The kids gobbled them up and begged to have them as dessert for the days that followed. But the highlight of this apple hand pie experience came yesterday morning. It was the quintessential Bill Cosby moment and it went something like this…

The boy: “Mom can I have a pie for breakfast?”
Me: “What are you crazy? No.”
The boy: “But Mom, it’s just like having toast with apple jelly.”
Me: (Now mulling over what he just said in my head) “Well, in New England they typically eat apple pie with a slice of cheddar cheese on top. (because in that moment a slice of cheese equals protein which therefore qualifies pie as breakfast appropriate.) How’s that sound?
The boy: “Seriously? I’m in!”

Yeah, it’s not my proudest mothering moment. However, the fact that my creation was such a winner and the idea that he may actually remember this moment for years to come makes me smile. And that makes my day.

Salted Caramel & Apple Hand Pies
These pies are delicious eaten out of hand, but they’re equally fantastic warm with a scoop of ice cream (or with a slice of cheddar cheese).

apple hand pie

3 ready to bake 9″ pie crusts (or homemade two-crust dough)
2 lbs. apples, peeled and diced small
2 tbsp. flour
1/2 cup sugar
2 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
2 tbsp. lemon juice
2 to 3 dashes Angostura bitters
15 store-bought soft caramels, halved and sliced like matchsticks
coarse sea salt
1 egg, whisked
1 tbsp. water
Demerara sugar, for finishing

  1. Preheat the oven to 375ºF. Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper and set aside.
  2. In a small bowl, combine the apples, flour, sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, lemon juice and bitters. Stir until thoroughly mixed and set aside.
  3. Roll out the pre-made crust. Using a pocket pie crimper (or a 6″ inverted bowl), cut out as many circles as possible. Re-roll the crust scraps and continue cutting out circles until you run out of dough.
  4. In a small bowl, whisk together the egg with a tablespoon of water and set aside.
  5. Spoon a small amount of the apple filling onto the left side of each circle, leaving a border around the filling. Top the apple filling with a few grains of sea salt and 8-10 of the caramel matchsticks. Lightly brush the edge of the crust with water, cover with another half of the circle and crimp the edges together, sealing each pie.
  6. Brush each pie with the egg wash, sprinkle with Demerara sugar and cut two vents in the top of each pie.
  7. Bake for about 15-20 minutes, or until the pies are golden brown.
  8. Remove the pies from the oven and allow to rest for 10 minutes before serving.

(This recipe makes about 10 pies.)