Brown Soda Bread

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Ireland is not a country known for its food, which is remarkably unfair. I was reading a novel a few weeks ago in which a man casually mentioned that his father was Italian and his mother was Irish — and thank God his father did the cooking.

(It was not a great book, overall. But I digress.)

Maybe it’s because it’s perceived as boring. People think Ireland and they think potatoes, corned beef, cabbage, and Bailey’s. Or they think England, which to many Americans means bland food with names like “Spotted Dick” and “mushy peas.”

The reality is a little more complex. Ireland, at least contemporary Ireland, has amazing salmon, lamb, and mollusks. I didn’t eat corned beef once while I was there. And when you’re in an Irish port city, it’s easy to see European influence (Spanish, French, a little Italian) on the cuisine as well.

But my favorite thing was the soda bread, a quintessentially Irish staple. Continue reading

A Homemade Life by Molly Wizenberg

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Did you know that my first foray into the blog world was on Literary Transgressions, a book reviewing blog I created with a friend? In fact, I still post there occasionally, though Corey has truly made it her own and is doing the heavy lifting. Anyway, this post was originally conceived as a crossover between the two blogs. See the post over at Literary Transgressions, here — and take a look around while you’re at it.

I like the way Molly Wizenberg eats. I’ve been depressed for the past few weeks because I couldn’t think of a single vegetable I want to eat when it’s 18 degrees out. No one should try to eat lettuce for lunch in winter.

But guess what? Not only is Molly the charming genius behind Orangette and therefore a role model in all things, she happens to be married to a vegetarian. Who is also apparently a cooking genius. So she’s managed to produce this wonderful book, A Homemade Life, that is just filled with vegetable-based recipes that you actually want to gobble down, like, right now.

For example: there is a red cabbage salad I have been thinking about for days. Apparently you can shred cabbage and dress it with lemon juice, black pepper and parmesan cheese and have it taste fantastic. My whole mind is blown.

Another example? Radish slivers and butter on a baguette, shown above. I have been walking past beautiful bunches of radishes in my grocery store for weeks now, wishing I could think of something to do with them. And now I do.

If the whole book was comprised of those two recipes, the one for perfect chocolate cake and maybe the one for French toast, I would consider it well worth it. But there’s more. Shortbread cookies with cherry frosting, squash soup with vanilla bean, pickled carrots, oven roasted tomatoes…everything you didn’t know you wanted to eat.

And, of course, each recipe is prefaced by a poignant, humorous and utterly delightful essay about the place this recipe holds in Molly’s life and the people who brought it to her. Molly’s writing style is so conversational, so frank and open while being perfectly lovely, that I can’t bring myself to refer to her as “Wizenberg,” as one should when one is reviewing an author’s work.

Molly’s writing is exactly like her recipes — simple, unfussy and eminently satisfying. I just want to call her up and invite her over for coffee and chocolate cake, over which we’d brag about our husbands’ cooking skills and talk about how sometimes, our recipes go horribly wrong. My dog can even play with her baby. It would be great. But until that very unlikely day, I’m just going to have to be content with cooking from this book again and again and again.

 

Chia Flatbread

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Some of you have probably read about a study recently published in Gastroenterology — and subsequently picked up all over the Internet — that showed that 37 people with non-Celiac gluten sensitivity and irritable bowel syndrome did not show a change in symptoms in a double-blind trial that tested reactions to low-gluten, high-gluten and no-gluten diets.

It’s shaken things up in the nutritional world because it may overturn the idea that people with non-Celiac gastrointestinal issues could benefit from being on a gluten-free diet. While the patients in this study said they preferred a gluten-free diet, what they really reacted well to was a different kind of diet that reduced a certain type of carbohydrates found in things like wheat but also apples and cabbage.

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Almond Flour Bread (paleo, gluten-free)

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I don’t often crave bread. Cookies, I miss — bread, not as much. Almond butter tastes just as good on apples as it does on toast, and cheese (when I eat it) pairs nicely with grapes, fruit, and other things besides toast and crackers.

Jelly, however, requires toast. So does stuffing, for that matter, and as Thanksgiving is coming up, this seemed a great time to share the best grain-free bread recipe I could find.

A quick bread primer: bread rises and becomes lofty through a combination of yeast or other leavening agent with the gluten in bread. The leavening provides the loft, and the gluten makes it stick. Quick breads rely on baking soda, baking powder and/or eggs to achieve loft in place of yeast, which makes the batter easier to handle. No living organisms.

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