Put a Ring on It

About six months ago, my left ring finger started to itch and sting. I removed my wedding ring for a few days and applied Cortisone, but as soon as I put the ring back on, the itching returned. I switched the ring to my right ring finger, but the same symptoms appeared a few days later. After talking to friends and poking around on the internet, I realized that at some point I had developed a nickel allergy. Nickel, I recently learned, is mixed with gold to make the white gold my engagement ring and wedding band are made of. As I write this post, my hands are jewelry-free. At some point I’ll probably go to the jeweler and pick up a plain platinum band so there’s some sort of marriage marker, but I’m not interested in buying a new engagement ring.

We’ll be celebrating our fifth wedding anniversary in June, and in the six years I’ve owned my engagement ring, I’ve received piles of compliments on it on a near-weekly basis. It’s not your typical metal band with a stone in the center, but an original creation based on an Edwardian design. It’s a band full of filigree, diamonds and lots of character. And they’re Canadian conflict-free diamonds, which was key for me. When Rich found the ring, he knew right away it was the right one. (Of course he knew, I had given him explicit instructions and design ideas for what I wanted.) He brought me to the jeweler to take a look, and I took it out for a test-drive. We brought it back, and then, because I’m me and like to make sure everything is just as it should be, we then went to 11 jewelers the next day. Just to make sure. Rich was not happy.

When we’d decided on my ring, we asked the designer, Ana-Katarina, if we could maybe replace the center diamond with a higher grade. “Oh no,” she said shaking her head, “You’re getting married. You need to save your money so that you can buy a home and have children. Don’t spend any more money than you have to on a piece of jewelry.” That summer was a hot one, and the store had a special discount depending on the temperature. When the thermometer hit 102, Rich made his move.

My sister and her wife loved my ring so much, that they also went to Ana-Katarina when they decided to get engaged. Their rings are both incredibly unique and inspire oohs and aahs wherever they go. I met someone last year and complemented her on her ring. It was also by Ana-Katarina.

I’ve been trying to make the best of the situation, making dishes that would have required me to remove my rings, like last week’s granola bars, these chickpea patties or this cabbage salad that required an even distribution of the dressing with a few down-and-dirty hand tosses.


I found this recipe earlier this week in “A Good Appetite,” Melissa Clark’s column in The New York Times, and you know how much I love her stuff. I’ve changed things up a bit, and employed my friend Tania’s baked tofu method in lieu of the one Clark suggests. I’ve also replaced the brown rice the salad rests on with wheat berries I soaked overnight and cooked in the pressure cooker.

March is one of those in-between months when it comes to vegetables: You’ve become a little sick of winter’s root vegetables, but asparagus and artichokes are still a few weeks away. Sometimes there are some nice, sweet parsnips that the farmer has picked, but there’s always cabbage. As Clark points out, one head of cabbage can make at least three separate dishes. I used a third of the cabbage I had in the fridge for this dish, and it fed three of us with leftovers for tomorrow’s lunch. I hope to use the rest of the vegetable for a warm borscht I’ve been plotting; more on that later.

Ironically, my nose ring is made of titanium, so, for the time being, that’s the one piece of jewelry that’s a constant in my life. And, I guess if this was India or certain African countries, it would be quite evident from that piercing that I am, indeed, happily married.

(Editor’s Note: Because there have been several off-line requests for a photo, I’ve “borrowed” this from one of AK’s albums. I’m a little worried I’m breaking some sort of copyright law by using this photo, so if anyone thinks this might end in a lawsuit, please feel free to chime in.)

Crunchy Vietnamese Cabbage Salad with Baked Tofu

Ingredients

3 1/2 tablespoons soy sauce

2 teaspoons light brown sugar

2 teaspoons Asian fish sauce

Zest and juice of 1 lime

1/2 jalapeño, seeded and minced (note: I had a red Thai chili and used half. I think any hot pepper will work in this recipe)

1 garlic clove, minced

4 tablespoons peanut oil

1/2 pound extra-firm tofu

4 cups shredded cabbage

1 large carrot, grated

1/3 cup coarsely chopped roasted, salted peanuts, plus more to serve

2 tablespoons chopped cilantro, plus more to serve.

Directions

Preheat oven to 450.

Pat the block of tofu dry using a paper towel. Slice the slab into thirds, and then slice those into thirds. Using your hands, gently toss the slices in a large bowl with a few glugs of olive oil. Place the tofu pieces on an oiled baking sheet and place in the hot oven. At 15 minutes, remove the pan from the oven. Using a silicone spatula, test one piece by flipping it over. You’re looking for a nice crust; it should be golden and beginning to caramelize. If it’s not there, place it back in the oven for another 5 minutes. Remove the pan and flip over a piece. If it’s golden, flip the rest of the pieces and put the pan back into the oven for another 15 minutes. You’re looking for the tofu to be a deep golden and the pieces will be spongy, with just a hint of crispness. Trust me, the texture has an amazing mouth feel and you’ll want to pop pieces of this all night long.

To make the vinaigrette, in a medium-sized bowl, whisk together the first six ingredients, then gradually whisk in the oil.

In a large bowl, toss together tofu, cabbage, carrot, peanuts, cilantro and vinaigrette. Garnish with more peanuts and cilantro.

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16 thoughts on “Put a Ring on It

  1. I stashed Melissa Clark’s article away for future reference as soon as I saw it. Ironically I had just gotten rid of head of cabbage too long neglected in our vegetable drawer because I couldn’t bear the thought of one more coleslaw. Your recipe sounds like a nice variation on Melissa’s recipe. I’m intrigued by the baked tofu. Thanks for the post. Ken

    P.S. I had to have my wedding ring cut off my finger after a karate accident. It took a year for my finger to go back to normal. The jeweler mended the ring and it’s back on my finger now. :-)

  2. I can’t wait to make this salad! I adore cabbage in just about every form and love finding new ways to enjoy it. Thank you for sharing!

    Your engagement ring sounds gorgeous – so sorry to hear you’ve developed an allergy. Perhaps wearing it for very short periods of time might work?

  3. Bummer. The same thing happened to Amanda with her ring a year or so ago. She had it replated, and started taking it off overnight, and it hasn’t bothered her in a while.

    • Quentin-Yes! Amanda actually dropped me a line about the replating suggestion. Been there, done that. It’s official, I’m a mess. Not having a wedding ring has caused hijinks at parties, which is very flattering, but I still do wish I could wear my band.

  4. I have a very bad nickle allergy. (as in a have a constant rash from the button on my jeans and I can only wear glasses made out of plastic.) I can wear 24K gold but not 18K. You can give that a try. Cheaper than platinum.

    • Amy-I have a friend who is an eye doctor (mine, come to think of it) who remarked that I was lucky my eyeglasses were plastic because most of the metal in the frames is now almost always nickel. I generally like to look of white gold/platinum more than gold gold, but thanks for the tip about 24K. I’ll keep that in mind if I come up short with the platinum.

  5. What a great and sad story! Ironically, your mother-in law gave me a beautiful black onyx pinkie ring that I wore for years…until the same thing happened that it did with you. I have no other reactions to my other rings, though. I am bummed, since all the jewlery I wear are gifts from others. Your ring is georgous. You will wear it again someday. :)

  6. You’re probably in violation of the copyright but since this is a big endorsement and de facto ad I doubt AK would mind. Everyone needs customers like that!

    Did you look into coating the inner rim of the rings with a coat of plastic or starch?

    • I’d read about using clear nail polish, but I’m really hesitant to do anything that might damage its value. I do see it as an heirloom piece, and, by the way things are going right now, it will be in great shape for my grandchildren and even great grandchildren.

  7. Thanks for the ring shout out – we do love our Katarina designs! Sorry you got a nickle allergy! We discovered that Sam has one when we were in Prague a few years ago and he was using a travel watch – I was less then nice about taking time out of our itinerary for a hospital stop for him. Happy almost 5 year anniversary!

    Your cabbage salad is making me hungry!

  8. I’ve always thought it odd that no matter the size of the ring, my finger swells up until it no longer fits me. Maybe I have the same allergy? Sounds like it’s not all that uncommon!

    I can’t wait to try this recipe. I love cabbage, and so does Amalia, and Bill loves almost all food, so this could be a family hit! And the tofu looks deliciously familiar. ;) I forgot to mention one thing that might add a little flavor. In addition to olive oil I often add a little tamari here before I bake it. I love the “burned tamari” taste and it gives the tofu a nice color and salty/crunchy aspect that I love.

  9. Molly, I made this last night and am enjoying the leftovers now for lunch. Yum! We substituted balsamic for fish sauce and pumpkin seeds for peanuts to make it a pantry dish and it was quite tasty. We’re always on the lookout for new cabbage dishes, as one head is sooo much. Thanks!

    • Oh terrific! And thanks for the tip about the balsamic vinegar. My mother and a good friend of mine were both trying to work around that ingredient. Just in case they don’t see this comment, I will let them both know about your alteration. And I’m really happy to hear the sunflower seed substitution was a hit, as well.

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