Mark of shame on my beloved blue car…

Just when you think things are going well, Life has a way of giving you a paper cut topped with a handful of salt and vinegar crisps. And if Life is feeling especially frisky, it will also toss your toast on the floor, jam-side down, before dropping a gigantic piano on your head.

Yesterday was one of those days. It started off well enough: it was only partly cloudy and relatively temperate, and I had a productive morning sending pitches out to a few magazines. I did the dishes, straightened up the apartment and readied myself for a workout. That’s when things took an ominous turn. As I pulled out of the parking garage to go to the gym, a man pulled his car nose-to-nose with mine, trying to get into the parking garage. Since I was already 90% out of the one-lane driveway, I stood my ground as it was HIS responsibility to back up and let me out. He stayed put, and started honking obnoxiously and waving at me to move back into the garage. Flustered, I threw the car into reverse and heard the most God-awful sound as my car scraped the concrete wall of my parking space.  Feck!

Nothing like a hot meal after a bad day

The guy, in all his douchebaggery, failed to notice and just drove into his space with nary a comment or care in the world. I was too angry to get out of the car; though he pressured me and was all-around f*ckchop, technically it was my fault. I drove to the gym, got out of the car and inspected the damage. Two panels, scraped to sh*t and a nice, big dent near the tire. GREAT.

I worked off my anger on the cross trainer and vowed to let it go; my friend Nader made a point the other day that we all have a choice to change how we feel about something, and I took that advice to heart and decided not to focus on it (after I texted a very expletive-filled missive about the incident to friends, naturally). I went home, took a long shower – symbolically washing away the crap incident – and decided to treat myself to some comfort food for dinner.

There are few dishes more comforting than Stuffed Cabbage, and ever since I laid eyes on the gorgeous Irish cabbage at the Drogheda Farmers Market I’ve been dying to develop my own recipe for this down-home meal. After softening the cabbage leaves in boiling water, I mixed together sautéed onions, bell peppers, garlic, ½ of a baked potato – mashed (I just happened to have this leftover and threw it in), basil, chives and rosemary with some fresh Irish ground beef and rolled the filling inside the leaves. Topped with marinara sauce and baked for an hour, the result was exactly what I needed: a hearty, cozy, home-cooked dinner.

Ready to top with marinara and bake for an hour!

Though this delicious dinner should have turned my day around, Life had other plans. After dinner, I drove to my friend’s house with the sole purpose of picking up an important insurance document I needed for an appointment the next day. I went, chatted with my friend for a while and then drove home, only to realize I’d left the document at her house. As I pulled into my parking garage, cursing the fact that I’d have to make another roundtrip tomorrow, I found a car parked in MY parking space. This is the parking space, mind you, that I pay 50 Euro a month to rent, which bears two, very large signs that say in BOLD RED writing, “This Parking Space Reserved for [insert my license plate number here].” I sat there for a while, absolutely steaming. Finally the car’s owner came into the garage and I told her sternly NOT to park in my space again (I wanted to add “…or else I’ll box your head in, you stupid cabbage!” but I held back).

Exhausted but relieved, I walked into my apartment, plunked down on the sofa and fixed myself a cup of tea. All I wanted to do was put my feet up, check my email and catch up on some web surfing. I turned on my computer, clicked into my broadband service and – surprise! – got an error message from O2 broadband saying their service was temporarily down and to “please be patient.”

What happened next? I surrendered and went to bed, effectively ending this craptastic day. Tomorrow, as they say, is a new day and I wanted to get to it as soon as possible!    

Comforting Stuffed Cabbage
(Serves 4)

8 large cabbage leaves
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 yellow bell pepper, diced
1 small onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons chopped chives
3 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
1 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary
½ of a cooked potato, mashed
½ lb (230 grams) of lean ground beef
1 egg
1 cup of finely grated Parmesan cheese (use a microplane; if using store-grated use only ½ cup)
Salt and pepper to taste
1 jar of your favorite marinara sauce

Preheat oven to 180 C. Fill a large soup pot with water and put over high heat until boiling. Place the cabbage leaves in the boiling water, and cook until soft – about 10 minutes. Remove from the water and place on a baking sheet to cool. Once cool enough to touch, run a sharp paring knife along the surface of the stems if they are too thick (some cabbage stems are so thick they won’t soften enough even after cooking). The point here is to make the stem part of the leaf about the same thickness as the rest of the leaf, so you can roll it easier. Set aside.

In a sauté pan, heat olive oil over medium-high heat. Cook the bell pepper and onion for about 4-5 minutes, and then add the garlic and cook for another 3-4 minutes or until the vegetables are tender. Place the vegetables in a large bowl and let cool for a few minutes. Add in the chives, basil, rosemary and mashed potato and mix. Then add the ground beef, egg and Parmesan and mix together using your hands until all the ingredients are incorporated. Add salt and pepper to taste.

To assemble: Take a small amount of the meat mixture and form it into rectangular meatball. Place the meatball at the base of a cabbage leaf, tuck in the sides of the leaf and roll. Place the roll, seam side down, into a casserole dish. After all the rolls are in the dish, top with the marinara sauce. Make sure the cabbage is well covered by the marinara sauce or the tops will burn. Bake for one hour. Serve hot!