After months of eating darkly bitter greens and earthy, cellared root vegetables, I find that just before spring arrives I'm drawn to cooking with a lot of fruit: adding fruits to main course meats, tossing them together with vegetables and grains to make side dishes, starring them in a few Sunday dinner desserts. The sweet and acidic profiles of fruit make for a transition of sorts, a palate adjuster from the heavy, hearty, sustaining style of cooking to something lighter and infused with sparkling brightness. I'm preparing myself for summer.
It may seem hard to find good fruit to cook with in the late winter, but you can cook successfully with wintered-over fruit if you think about reviving the flavors with a punch of fruit or citrus juice. In this side dish, late apples get a jolt of freshness with addition of sweet cider and tart cider vinegar. Use an apple that is firm but tart and juicy, either a Granny Smith or Pink Lady.
This makes a perfect side dish for slices of duck breast, tenderloin pork roast or boneless pork loin chops.
Red Cabbage with Apples
2 tablespoons canola or grape seed oil for the pan
1 tart apple, unpeeled
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
1 medium head of red cabbage, cored and hand cut into shreds (1/4- to 3/8-inch thick)
1 cup apple cider
1/2 cup unfiltered apple cider vinegar
1/2 cup chicken stock
salt to taste
1/2 cup toasted walnuts or pecans, broken into large pieces, optional
1. Coat the bottom of a large dutch saute pan with 1 to 2 tablespoons of oil. Heat over medium heat and add the onion. Stir until onion is softened.
2. Cut the apple into cubes, leaving the skin on, and add the chunks to the pan. Stir to combine.
3. Add the shredded cabbage to the pan and stir well to combine.
4. Pour the chicken stock, cider and cider vinegar over the vegetables. Maintain the liquids at a gentle simmer with the pan uncovered for about an hour, or until the cabbage is tender.
Season to taste with a pinch or two of salt. Sprinkle with toasted nuts right before serving, if desired.
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Recipe courtesy of Amesbury resident Jane Ward, author and blogger at Food & Fiction, 2012.