Pasta in Garlic-Almond SauceHere’s a meal to be proud of. The “Pasta in Garlic-Almond Sauce,” from the April 2009 issue of Gourmet, was a deliciously “creamy” dish, with a perfect mix of garlic, cheese, mint, and peas. And the “Classic Irish Soda Bread,” from the August 2004 issue of Cook’s Illustrated (recipe below), was so easy and so tasty -- a soft, thick, and buttery bread.

Adding to the pleasure of the pasta dish is its ease of preparation. Pureeing blanched almonds and garlic in a blender is a vegetarian triumph. My chosen pasta shape was chiocciole, which means “snail” in Italian. It’s always a kick to use frozen peas. And the employment of used pasta water always makes so much sense. I did add 2 tsp. salt to the final dish. This pasta will be devoured by young and old alike.

Now I have no legacy of soda bread in my family cooking repertoire. The recipe for “Classic Irish Soda Bread,” from the August 2004 issue of Cook’s Illustrated (recipe below), allowed me to sensibly approach this bread without the inhibitions of certain traditions. I was armed with the comforts of my digital thermometer and my cast-iron pan.

Classic Irish Soda BreadCLASSIC IRISH SODA BREAD
Cook’s Illustrated, August 2004
Yields 1 loaf

3 cups bleached all-purpose flour, plus more for work surface
1 cup cake flour
2 Tbsp. sugar
1 1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 1/2 tsp. cream of tartar
1 1/2 tsp. salt
2 Tbsp. unsalted butter, softened, plus 1 Tbsp. melted butter
1 1/2 cups buttermilk

Adjust oven rack to upper-middle position and heat oven to 400 degrees. Whisk flours, sugar, baking soda, cream of tartar, and salt in large bowl. Work softened butter into dry ingredients with fork or fingertips until texture resembles coarse crumbs.

Add buttermilk and stir with fork until dough just begins to come together. Turn out onto flour-coated work surface; knead until dough just becomes cohesive and bumpy, 12 to 14 turns. (Do not knead until dough is smooth, or bread will be tough.)

Pat dough into a round about 6 inches in diameter and 2 inches high; place on greased or parchment-lined baking sheet or in cast-iron pan. Cut a cross shape into the top.

Bake until golden brown and a skewer inserted into center of loaf comes out clean or internal temperature reaches 180 degrees, 40 to 45 minutes. Remove from oven and brush with melted butter; cool to room temperature, 30 to 40 minutes.

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I feel like such a sneaky daredevil when I make something that’s called “bread,” yet it does not require yeast. The kneading, here, was minimally simple. I was some sort of Irish pilgrim, using my cast-iron pan. After 45 minutes of baking, my bread’s temperature was 187 degrees. The scent of the melted butter, brushed on the hot loaf of bread, was heavenly. You just might cry joyful tears when you produce this exquisite loaf. Celebrate it.

RECIPES: dazzle yourself with almonds in this simple pasta, and continue to swoon with thick buttery bread
PREP TIMES: pasta can come together in less than 30 minutes; bread will take 1 hour
TASTES: almonds, garlic, and Parmigiano-Reggiano are a creamy topping for pasta, herbs, and peas; soda bread is soft and delightful

Next time, I want to return to chicken land. I’ll make “Oven-Roasted Chicken Thighs with Carrots and Yukon Gold Potatoes,” from the March 2009 issue of Bön Appetit. Come back to my site on Tuesday, September 15, to see what happens.