In New York City nowadays many young people and even families with children donít cook at home anymore. They return from work too late and tired to shop and launch into something daunting, so rely on cold cuts, take-out, prepared foods, and restaurants. Newspapers report that a large proportion of ovens here now store sweaters rather than heat food! A subtext complicates the situation, however. Often persons havenít a clue how to begin making something simple, satisfying and quick.
To help, I offer a series of very easy, comforting dishes with a minimum of prep time. Sometimes that effort involves a marinade tossed together the night before, so that a cut of meat can be popped deliciously under the broiler when one walks in hungry the next evening. Sometimes the whole shebang happens quickly on the spot.
I begin with old-fashioned baked apples, which perfume the kitchen for breakfast or dessert. Pleasing to find extras waiting in the icebox for a snack too.
4 Rome Beauty or Northern Spy apples
approximately ½ to ¾ cup orange juice, preferably freshly squeezed
dark brown sugar
4 cinnamon sticks
45 minutes, for 4 people
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees
Remove the stems, tough central membranes, and seeds from the apples with a coring tool, taking care not to pierce through the blossom end. Pack the resultant cavity with brown sugar, and stand a cinnamon stick in the center, tilting it at a jaunty angle.
Place the apples in a Pyrex pie pan. Pour orange juice into the sugar stuffed cavities, allowing it to overflow into the pan to a depth of about half an inch. Bake until the apples are fragrant, the skins begin to split, and an exploratory poke through the flesh with a knife blade or skewer encounters no resistance. Best served warm, but nice cold too. Some like to gild the lily with a little heavy cream.
Alternately, in place of orange juice, try cognac and a little water, or Madeira rainwater, together with four or five whole cloves instead of each cinnamon stick.