My credit card is hurting. I am still on the hunt for a white dress to marry my man in, but have decided shopping in actual stores is unhip. Also, tiring, annoying and a waste of time. If I am going to spend 4 hours looking for white dresses, I want to see more than 3. Which is where online shopping comes in. You can see dozens of dresses in a matter of minutes, and you can even select by type. Hello, 87 white dresses and nothing else to look at. The snag is you can’t try them on virtually, and that is where the plastic gets the pain. Buy five dresses at the same time in a shop? Never. Online? The only reason there weren’t more was my credit card limit.
And then the dresses come, and I try them, and they don’t fit. In the olden days, that would’ve been because they were too small. There were15 kgmore of me then, and clothes often weren’t designed to hold them in. Now, I am sending dresses back because they are too big. (Yes, yes, I could have ordered them a size smaller. Or six sizes smaller- there is still plenty of me to go around. But not an awful lot of shopping goes on in a year of my life, and I am not used to getting the smaller size yet.) For this, I thank vegetables.
The biggest difference between the way I eat now and the way I ate then is vegetables. Sure, there would be times when my dinners had plenty of vegetables. I would even enjoy those times. But then I’d get lazy, and life would happen and pasta, bread and cheese would be the mainstay of my every meal again. Thing is, it is not that easy to eat a lot of vegetables if they’re an add-on to your usual meal. Take a hamburger. You can add a sliced tomato, a bit of onion, maybe a pickle and some lettuce, but that’s about it. Well, you can pile a salad on the plate, but crunching through a mountain of leaves before eating the burger feels more like work than pleasure.
Eating plenty of vegetables is a breeze, though, if I build my meal around them. After a year of training, this has almost become second nature. (Almost. Cheese is always there on my other shoulder, whispering calorific ideas. Mostly, I ignore them.) When deciding what to have for dinner, I pick the vegetable bits first, then see if they need padding out. I have to admit this often means my man is stuck with bread as a carbohydrate filler, but I haven’t heard him complain yet.
“Picking the vegetable bits” is all the more enjoyable if there is plenty to pick from. Most nights, there are at least two or three ideas in my head, jostling for attention. Sometimes, though, all I can think of are braised cabbage (not what I want to eat when the sun’s out) and tomato sauce (which I eat so much I am surprised it hasn’t dyed me red yet). This is why I have this section on the site, and it is why I love 101 Cookbooks. Page upon page of stunning looking food, with lots of vegetables and healthy ingredients, but enough of the decadent stuff (cheese, chocolate, butter) to keep me from slipping into a coma of virtuousness. Also, I’ve never tried a recipe from 101 Cookbooks that didn’t taste lovely; even if I tend to bastardize things when I can’t find some of the stuff that is plentiful in northern California.
This evening, I was looking for inspiration when I stumbled upon this, a recipe for warm red cabbage salad. Crunchy cabbage, garlic, cheese and sunflower seeds? Hurray! Even with my substitutions (I had a lemon that needed using so swapped most of the vinegar for lemon juice, and the store didn’t have sunflower seeds so I bought pine nuts), it was gorgeous. Just the right level of garlicky, creamy cheese for the little devil on my shoulder, toasty pine nuts and so much cabbage that I could hear my immune system cheering. Mmm-mm-mmm! And it has the hallmark of a truly great recipe find: I can’t wait to eat it again. Now all I need is a dress to do so in.
Warm red cabbage salad
Based on a 101 Cookbooks recipe
Serves at least 3
- About 500 gr of red cabbage, cored and sliced into thin ribbons
- 1 small red onion, diced
- 2 large cloves of garlic
- juice from half a lemon
- generous splash of balsamic vinegar
- 3 fat sprigs of fresh thyme, leaves only
- 1 tsp natural cane sugar
- handful of plump raisins (soaked in warm water if need be)
- 100 gr feta, crumbled
- 60 gr pine nuts, toasted
- olive oil
Heat 2 tablespoons or so of olive oil in a large skillet (large enough to hold the cabbage later, with room for tossing) and gently fry the diced onion. Add the garlic and fry until it loses its raw edge. Add the cabbage to the pan and toss thoroughly until all ribbons are slicked with oil (don’t add more oil, just keep tossing till the oil is evenly spread).
Dissolve the sugar in the lemon juice, stir juice, vinegar and thyme into the cabbage and mix thoroughly again. Taste to see if you like the crunchiness, and cook a bit longer if you don’t. Don’t overdo it, though, because the cabbage will soften a bit more after you’ve taken it off the heat.
When the cabbage tastes right, remove the pan from the heat and stir in the raisins, most of the feta and most of the pine nuts. Turn out onto plates or a platter, garnish with the remaining feta and pine nuts and serve. (I served the warm salad over ricotta ravioli.)