I once asked a babysitter to throw dinner together as I was flying out the door, “Just toss something together! Whatever you find is ok. There’s chicken in the freezer, pasta in the pantry, canned tomatoes. Go for it! Get creative. See you at 9.”
I got a text later asking me what exactly I wanted her to do because “throwing it together” was a foreign language. I then realized that I wanted her to know how to make the basics. Simple pasta sauce, al dante pasta, a salad for a crowd, 3 ingredient bread, a meat rub, a side that goes with almost anything and a way to use whatever you might have. Usually less than you think.
I never got around to teaching my sitters anything in the kitchen, actually I just started keeping frozen pizza’s in the freezer or boxed pasta in the pantry hoping that would suffice, but the sentiment is still there and I want my own kids to know how to fend for themselves when they’re staring down a dinner party, meeting the parents, impressing a love interest or simply surviving in their first apartment. It doesn’t take much, these are the basics.
An onion is the start of so many wonderful things. If you’re in a hurry or stuck for a good idea – start with an onion. If all you do is saute it down to it’s brown goodness, sticky on the edges, a little crisp … and toast a piece of bread and open a can of tuna. You can slice a tomato and eat like a king. No tuna or tomato necessary.
We’ll start with Skillet Cabbage. I grew up on this and in the Fall there’s plenty of cabbage to go around – this is one of our favorite side dishes this time of year.
Grab a large skillet or dutch oven, heat up a few glugs of oil (we use Avocado oil. Coconut oil or EVOO would work, as well as ghee. No wrong answer here) if you’re a stickler for measurements start with 2 TBSP.
Slice up 2 onions, whatever kind you have.
A few cloves of garlic – minced.
A bit of salt and pepper. More salt than pepper, but to your taste.
Saute the onion down to it’s translucent yellow state. Just starting to brown.
While your onions are cooking, slice, julienne, chop – whatever you desire – an entire head of cabbage. Discard the middle, tough white parts.
Add the whole thing to your pan or dutch oven – it will sizzle. The cabbage will sweat, there will be steam. This is the romance of the kitchen. This is the part I love the best. I cover my dutch oven for a few minutes and stir every once in a while.
This will last about 10 minutes. Your cabbage will have wilted to about 50% of it’s original mass. Right before you’re ready to serve it, toss in some soy sauce. Again – start with 1-2 TBSP but add more to taste as you wish and crank up the heat again if you reduced it. More steam, more sizzle.
It’s humble in presentation. But it’s perfect with fish, chicken, pork. As a side if you’re having fried rice. As a base if you have a couple sausages to use, or bacon to fry, left over meat from the grill.
You can always do more – add more. But this is one of my favorite basic recipes.
And now maybe it can be one of yours.