When I was twenty two and working at my first job as an editorial assistant in the cookbook division of a big publishing house, I used to come home every day and flop on the couch with a bag of soy chips, a jar of salsa, and a glass of wine and turn on The Barefoot Contessa. My roommate’s boyfriend teased me for spending all day editing recipes only to unwind at night by watching a cooking show (“Don’t you do anything else?!”), but I dismissed his comments. He just wasn’t enlightened about food. The closest I ever saw him come to cooking was the time I caught him using my blender as a bong.
Back then, I loved Ina because I was just learning how to cook and her recipes were short and simple and yielded big, bold results. As a novice, I found preparing her food encouraging. Yes! I could make macaroni and cheese from scratch. Yes! I could bake a show-stopping coconut cake. Yes! I could mix a mean Bloody Mary. Each dish I mastered was like finding a new foothold on the steep and treacherous climb to adulthood. Maybe I didn’t know how to file my taxes or launder my sweaters, but I could whisk up a perfectly bracing lemon vinaigrette, and I knew to pour it in the bottom of the bowl and then add the lettuce and toss, like the French did. That was something.
Also, I had just graduated from college in rural Maine and moved directly to New York City–a huge change that left me reeling. Watching Ina’s show provided instant distraction and relief. It was like going over to my best friend’s house and hanging out with her mom in the kitchen–if she lived in a mansion in the Hamptons and had tons of fabulous gay friends.
Even though I’m a much more accomplished cook these days, I’m still a huge Ina fan. (I even named my first born after her!) So of course I bought her new cookbook about 10 minutes after it came out. The first thing I made was this apple chutney, and naturally it was flawless. I intended to save it for our Thanksgiving cheese plate, but we can’t stop eating it and now there isn’t enough left.
This chutney will keep for at least two weeks in the fridge. I like to serve it on toasted bread spread with a little tofu cream cheese. I’m also planning to make another batch next month to use as a topping for my Hanukkah latkes.
- 6 Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored and diced into 1/2-inch chunks
- 1 cup chopped yellow onion (about 1 small onion)
- 2 Tablespoons minced fresh ginger
- 1 cup freshly squeezed orange juice (about 3 juice oranges)
- 3/4 cup cider vinegar
- 1 cup packed light brown sugar
- 1 teaspoon yellow mustard seeds
- 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 3/4 cup raisins
- Combine the apples, onion, ginger, orange juice, vinegar, brown sugar, mustard seeds, red pepper flakes and salt and in a large saucepan. Bring the mixture to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally. Reduce the heat to simmer and cook, stirring occasionally, until most of the liquid has evaporated, 45 minutes to 1 hour. Remove from the heat and stir in the raisins.