Sunday, March 21, 2010

springtime, hope, purple cabbage

It doesn't seem that long ago that I was writing of the shifting of summer into fall. And yet, as I reflect on that season of my life and think of all that has happened since, it suddenly seems as though years and worlds have gone by. We have indeed traveled from fall through winter and into spring, and now it is official.

Happy springtime, my friends.

I probably spent, oh, the entire second half of winter reminding myself and others that I like having four seasons and that we couldn't possibly appreciate the warmth and sunshine of spring and summer as much as we do if not for the cold and dark winter that comes before. And this is true. But I am very, very glad that spring is here.

"Here," of course, is a relative term, and spring in Michigan is a fluid concept. An illustration from this past week: on several weekday evenings, I shed the running tights, Under Armour and gloves to run in shorts and a t-shirt, enjoying balmy temperatures in the high sixties, sunshine and completely dry sidewalks. I walked with a friend to a nearby bar. I marveled at the leaves of tiny tulips emerging from the ground. My bike-enthusiast friends joyfully returned to their favorite means of transportation. And then. And then Saturday came, the first day of spring marked by snow coming steadily down all the day long, blanketing the ground and pelting my face with freezing flakes as I rounded Reeds Lake on the week's longest run (of course I planned that one for Saturday).

However, today brought more sunshine, and the snow melted. And I think we're all quite aware that the official commencement of spring has nothing to do with temperatures and precipitation anyway. I look forward to all this season will bring: the return of the blessed farmers' market, bikes, tulips, sweaters and light jackets, the turned-up cuffs of my jeans, long walks, brighter evenings, hope.

And in the end, I think that's really it: what I most love about the changing of the seasons is the hope that comes with the transition. It's like a promise. Things are shifting. Greater joy, greater fullness, more beauty are yet to come...

I am well aware that we may not have seen the last of the snow/cold, so until spring proclaims its sustained presence, I will welcome it in other ways. Along with the bikes and sweaters and such, springtime makes me think of brightly colored produce. And scones. (Really, I'm serious. It does.) Since my sister covered the scones already today, I will leave you with a recipe that involves the beautiful purple cabbage I have been rather obsessed with as of late, a winter vegetable whose brilliant color speaks of more than dark skies and the moldy snowdrifts of late winter.

To me, it speaks also of hope.

Purple Cabbage Salad with Lemon and Parmesan
Adapted from Molly Wizenberg's A Homemade Life: Stories and Recipes from My Kitchen Table

Meticulous baker and perfectionist I may be, but surprisingly, I don't follow any calculated formula for my version of this salad. I most often just throw it together in one bowl, taste and adjust to my liking and then pop it in some tupperware for part of a workday lunch. I generally go pretty light on the olive oil and heavier with the lemon, and I always season quite thoroughly with the salt and pepper. I also think it's quite excellent with a handful of garbanzos thrown in, but I do have a bit of a thing for garbanzo beans (and by this I mean that sometimes I eat them straight from the can), so I recognize that this might not be to your liking.

All that to say approximations and variation work quite well with this recipe. I've given Molly's measurements here, though, so as not to leave you completely in the dark. As always, Molly does not disappoint... this salad is bright and lovely, just like springtime and hope.

2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 clove garlic, or to taste, pressed
1/8 teaspoon (or so) salt
1 small head (about 1 1/2 pounds) purple cabbage
1/4 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano (or another hard cheese)
ground black pepper

Whisk together the olive oil, lemon juice, garlic and salt in a small bowl. Set aside.

Prepare the cabbage by removing any bruised or wrinkled outer leaves and trimming the root end. Cut the cabbage into quarters, and then, one quarter at a time, slice the cabbage as thinly as possible (aim for 1/4 inch slivers).

In a serving bowl (or, to skip a step, your tupperware lunch container), toss the cabbage with a large spoonful or two of dressing (you will likely have some left over, but it will keep in the refrigerator and nicely top another salad or, along with a grated hard cheese such as Parmesan, a bowl of garbanzos. And please note: the latter is a brilliant and well-tested suggestion first of Molly, not of this clearly biased garbanzo-aficionado!). Add the Parmigiano-Reggiano and toss gently. Season with pepper. Taste and adjust the various components as needed.

Serve, enjoy and be filled with sustenance and joy and hope and all manner of good things.

Yield: about 4 servings as a side; about 2 as lunch

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