Yesterday, I was lazy. I wanted an easy dinner. I wanted Italian comfort food: Parmesan-crusted chicken, buttery garlic bread topped with parsley, roasted eggplant and peppers. I did not want to really cook though. And I was bored. As I have mentioned, I work from home. Sometimes, the only outside time I get is tripping my way to the mailbox. Certain days, I have to force myself to do that. While I love the winter, the snow, the brisk, chilly air, I get lazy and too cozy in my jazzers to want to change my clothes, brush my hair or cook a proper meal for just H and I. Although I wanted yummy American-Italian goodness, I had no foodstuffs to help me on my endeavor. And I didn't want to leave the house- it was already snowing (again), and I was toasty under a blanket.
Since I do have a four-year old, I don't have the luxury of just dreaming about food; some actually has to materialize. I toasted some bread and cheese for her, sliced her daily half of avocado. While in the veggie crisper, I noticed a small, purple cabbage. I probably bought it last year (bad joke for January) and forgot about it prior to the Caribbean voyage. I took it out. I remembered a recipe I read from Molly Wizenberg's blog Orangette. Her then-boyfriend made this mad-dash salad in the college food hall of purple cabbage, garlic, lemon vinaigrette, and Parmesan cheese. I had all those ingredients. I shrugged and got out the chopping board.
I leaned against the counter, pausing shredding up the head of vegetable. I couldn't just eat cabbage for dinner. That just wouldn't do. And I was bored. And it was so cold outside, so turning on the oven would give my heat more bang for the buck.
" Hey H! Do you want to bake some bread?"
" No, I want to bake fairy cakes, but this time I want to make chocolate-strawberry-vine frosting and I think we should use purple M&Ms..."
" Um, we're not baking fairy cakes tonight. How about bread?"
" No! I want purple M&Ms and fairy..."
" Oh, sorry, no purple M&Ms. You can mix bread batter with your hands."
I pushed the cabbage to the side, and whipped up the most fantastic, rustic, easiest-quick-bread-EVER to have alongside my cabbage slaw. It's not garlic bread, mind you, but it's rich and delicious and dense and lovely. We grabbed the four ingredients we need for... Irish Soda Bread.
I used to think Irish Soda Bread had to be dark brown. And contained seltzer. Where I got those ideas, who knows. Now I know that it takes literally minutes to whip up, bakes at fiery 450F for 15 minutes, then finishes at 400F for 25 minutes. No rising time, you can mess with different flours, and it really works as a breakfast toast, lunch smear, or accompaniment to a simple dinner. Plus, H can measure it all out herself with minimal coaching, muck it all up into a ball, and slap it on some parchment. Easy peasy. And mighty tasty.
And while we ate, picnicking in the living room to Harry Potter, my meal actually satisfied the Italian meal craving from earlier. The pungent garlic from the dressing, the melted butter on the oven fresh bread, the Parmesan crisps, toasted alongside the bread at the very end. It reminded me of Boston: all Italian and Irish, slap dash, thrown together out of necessity. Weird, I know. But the food was more than alright.
Purple Cabbage Salad
This recipe is inspired by Molly Wizenberg's book A Homemade Life. And also because I tend to buy vegetables with no idea of how I am going to cook them. Then, forget about them and invent something out of necessity.
Quarter head purple cabbage (small ones are sweeter, I remember from her book)
2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
Half a lemon
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon black pepper
pinch of sea salt
Preheat oven to 400F. Using a vegetable peeler, strip off long pieces of Parmesan. Place strips on a piece of parchment. Toast the Parmesan for a few minutes in the oven until the melt a little and get nice and brown. Slice your cabbage so it's all frilly ribbons of vegetable. In a jam jar, add the garlic, lemon juice and olive oil. Shake with as much energy as you have on cold, snowy night. Dress the salad with the vinaigrette, S&P and the Parmesan strips.
You don't have to make the soda bread, but together, they are absolutely delightful.
Irish Soda Bread
I don't know where I stumbled on this. I make it more from memory and to get rid of last bits of flour I have lying around. Last night I used the remaining spelt flour I picked up in Oregon last summer.
2 cups spelt flour (this can can be subbed for wheat or more all purpose)
2 cups all purpose unbleached flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2-3/4 cups buttermilk
Heat oven to 450F. Mix dry ingredients together. Make a well and add buttermilk (use the lesser amount at first). Using your hands, mix the dough together- it will be sticky and mucky. You may need to add a splash more buttermilk. Take the dough out, form ball, and place on a parchment-lined cookie sheet. Score an X in the top. Bake for 15 minutes at 450F. Turn down to 400F and cook for 25 minutes. The bread should sound hollow when tapped on the bottom. Tear out a hunk and slather in butter. Sigh and slump against the counter.
This bread is very tasty toasted the next morning, or sliced across its equator to make an open face sandwich.