Five or so years ago I was living in a very small apartment, on a very tight budget, with no cable. I received about six stations on my TV, and a result, rarely changed the channel from a fledgling, geeky station called The Food Network. Ah yes, perhaps, you have (now ) heard of them. I developed substantial relationships with Alton Brown, Sara Moulton, and even goofy, inexplicable Rachel Ray. The love of my television life, however, became Mario Batali.
He was knowledgable, like Alton, but not overly technical. He was competent, like Sara, without being anemic. He was personable, like Rachel, without being, well, annoying. He lived and breathed Italian food, enriching his counterside demonstrations with the culinary and cultural history of each dish. Before then, I had never heard of Emilia-Romagna, now, because of him, it haunts my foodie daydreams.
I made pilgrimage to Lupa and Babbo, and was delighted to find he was no joke. These places confirm his simple genius.
For Christmas this past year, I received his latest cookbook as a gift. I cracked the spine this past weekend for the first time, cooking dinner with Laurie and Will. We made 3 dishes, 2 of which I loved, But Laurie says she loved all 3. Amazingly, we had no pasta; we had instead:
braised red cabbage
olive polenta with shitake mushrooms
and will's awesome turkey burgers
The recipe for the cabbage follows:
Cavola al Aceto
1 medium head of red cabbage
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 medium red onion, sliced
2 tbsp caraway seeds
2 tbsp sugar
1/2 cup red wine vinegar
salt and fresh ground pepper
Remove the tough outer leaves of the cabbage
Cut into quarters, core, and slice into 1/ inch strips
Heat a large heavy bottomed pot, add olive oil and heat untill smoking
Add onion and caraway seeds and cook until onion is soft
Add cabbage, sugar and vinegar, stir well
Cover pot and cook until cabbage is quite tender, about 20 minutes
Season with salt and pepper
Classic Mario because it is simple, fast, delicious.