A Homemade Life by Molly Wizenberg of Orangette

Book Review 2009

If you're a fan of cooking blogs (which if you're reading this is likely) then you may know Molly Wizenberg simply as Orangette. One of the early and most popular blogs focused on food and cooking, Orangette has won the hearts and minds (inside joke) of many people with its casual, intimate prose and unabashed love for time spent at the chopping board and stove.

Molly has just released her first book, called A Homemade Life: Stories and Recipes from My Kitchen Table (Simon and Schuster) and it's a wonderful, if deeper, meditation on many of Orangette's themes: life and death, humor, passion, place and of course, food.

Read on for more, including a recipe!

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This is a very personal book, which is one of its strengths. Here we find a life that is extensively referenced in cooking and eating, recipes and ingredients and, most importantly, the powerful presence of a beloved father whose influence is sweet and strong.

Each chapter is completed with a recipe and there are many that I've bookmarked, including the one offered below. As far as I can tell, the recipes and essays are mostly new and unique to the book, although many themes and events from Orangette are revisited, including one of my most favorite weddings ever. It's wonderful to get a closer peek at time when Molly meets her husband-to-be Brandon. She manages to make us feel included without being too voyeuristic and then leaves us with a killer recipe for Cranberry Chutney.

Some will miss the lovely photographs from Orangette, but I'm happy that Molly chose instead to begin each chapter with wonderful, whimsical drawings by Camilla Engman. The lack of photos gently turns the book away from cookbook and towards memoir, where it belongs.

Cream Braised Green Cabbage
from A Homemade Life: Stories and Recipes from My Kitchen Table by Molly Wizenberg

This recipe calls for a fairly small cabbage. I like to use small ones because they're often sweeter and more tender than their big-headed siblings. If, however, you can only find a larger cabbage, you can certainly use it. Just be sure to only use as many wedges as fit into a single layer in the pan, and take care that each wedge is no thicker than 2 inches at its outer wedge. Otherwise, the cabbage won't cook properly.

You can also try this method on halved or quartered Brussels sprouts.

1 small green cabbage (about 1 1/2 pounds)
3 tablespoons (1 1/2 ounces) unsalted butter
1/4 teaspoon salt, plus more to taste
2/3 cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

First, prepare the cabbage. Pull away any bruised leaves, and trim its root end to remove any dirt. Cut the cabbage into quarters, and then cut each quarter in half lengthwise, taking care to keep a little bit of the core in each wedge. (The core will help to hold the wedge intact, so that it doesn't fall apart in the pan.) You should wind up with 8 wedges of equal size.

In a large (12-inch) skillet, melt the butter over medium-high heat. Add the cabbage wedges, arranging them in a single crowded layer with one of the cut sides down. Allow them to cook, undisturbed, until the downward facing side is nicely browned, 5 to 8 minutes. I like mine to get some good color here, so that they have a sweetly caramelized flavor. Then, using a pair tongs, gently turn the wedges onto their other cut side. When the second side has browned, sprinkle the salt over the wedges, and add the cream. Cover the pan with a tight-fitting lid, and reduce the heat so that the liquid stays at a slow, gentle simmer. Cook for 20 minutes, then remove the lid and gently, using tongs, flip the wedges. Cook another 20 minutes, or until the cabbage is very tender and yields easily when pierced with a thin, sharp knife. Add the lemon juice, and shake the pan to distribute it evenly.

Simmer, uncovered, for a few more minutes more to thicken the cream to a glaze that loosely coats the cabbage. Serve immediately, with additional salt at the table.

Yield: 4 to 6 servings

Thank you, Molly and congratulations!

• Buy Molly's book: A Homemade Life: Stories and Recipes from My Kitchen Table, $16.50 at Amazon

Related: Book Review: Clotilde's Edible Adventures in Paris

(Images and recipe permission: Simon and Schuster)

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Dana Velden is a freelance food writer. She lives, eats, plays, and gets lost in Oakland, California where she is in the throes of raising her first tomato plant.