lucky.

(soup tureen courtesy of mrs. huizenga)

Our house is in chaos at the moment.

Having just said goodbye to the last guest we will have at this address, we have begun to dismantle our life here. It’s not the most fun process, partly because of the emotional weight attached to what we are doing – but also partly due to the fact that it is an extremely messy undertaking.

Simply put, there is crap everywhere.

How is it that we’ve managed to accumulate so much in the three short years we have lived here?

When did I, formerly known to my friends as the compulsive minimalist, become the kind of person who has boxes and bags and bins of excess to cart to the Goodwill every day?

For every box I pack, there is another filled with things we no longer need – if indeed we ever needed them in the first place.

Going through our things, I’m half fascinated and half horrified by the pile-up; but when I manage to shift my eyes from the miasma I feel terribly lucky.

Lucky that we’re in the privileged position of having more crap than we know what to do with.

And lucky that we are moving on.

Happiness Soup
adapted from Nigella Lawson

The great thing about this easy-going soup is that it works hot, warm, or even tepid. I have never tried it fridge-cold, but at room temperature it’s great.

1/4c olive oil
3 medium yellow zucchini, finely diced
1 clove garlic, smashed
zest and juice of a lemon
1 tsp tumeric
4c (1 litre) chicken broth
1/2c basmati rice
4-5 large basil leaves
1 ball of mozzarella (about 325g), cut into small cubes

In a large saucepan, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add zucchini pieces and cook, stirring gently, about 5 minutes, until slightly softened.

Add garlic and tumeric and stir; then add lemon juice and zest, broth, and rice.

Cook, uncovered, about 20 minutes, until rice is cooked and zucchini is tender. Add basil leaves and remove from heat. Puree soup in batches.

Serve warm, but not necessarily hot; garnish each bowl with a handful of mozzarella.

Serves 4-6.

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uncomplicated.

I used to love making risotto.

Not only did it encompass everything that makes me happy in a food (butter, wine, starch, meat, cheese); making it was a process that I found thoroughly enjoyable, especially if I had friends around. The risotto dinner routine from those days goes something like this:

Heat broth. Pour a glass of wine for everyone. Start the butter, the onion, the rice. Start talking. Splash some wine into the pan. Splash some wine into the glasses. Ladle broth into the rice, and start stirring. More wine, more gossip, more broth, more stirring.

Eventually everyone sits down, flushed from the steam and the stirring and the wine. The conversation doesn’t really slow down, because another advantage of risotto is that it is completely uncomplicated to eat.

These days, while I still love the uncomplicatedness of eating risotto, still love the wine and the conversation, the risotto dinner routine has had to evolve somewhat.

It may seem hard to imagine, but I have discovered (necessity being the mother of invention) that a really creamy, delectable and soul-satisfying risotto can still be had without my standing over the stove for half an hour and coaxing it into being.

Friends, I have given up the stirring.

And it has changed my life.

Risotto for a New Reality

By some miracle, my daughter, who has an aversion to vegetables and doesn’t like her food to be mixed together, devours this dish. I also buy my squash already diced, and my pancetta already cubed, which adds considerably to the ease of making it on a weeknight (well, any night really) and thus also to its soul-satisfying cred.

2c arborio rice
1/4c olive oil
2c (450g) diced butternut squash
1/4c white wine (optional – if not using, increase broth to 5 1/2c)
5 1/4c chicken broth
150g diced pancetta
2c frozen peas
1/2c grated parmesan

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

In a deep, heavy-bottomed skillet with a tight-fitting lid, combine rice, oil, squash wine, and 5 cups broth over medium-high heat. Stir once, bring to a boil, then clamp the lid on and transfer to the oven. Cook 25-35 minutes (I find it takes a little longer if you’re using frozen squash), until rice is al dente and broth is mostly absorbed.

While rice is in the oven, cook pancetta cubes in a small heavy skillet until crispy. Drain on paper towel and set aside.

Return rice to stovetop over medium heat. Stir rice well, scraping up any crispy bits that may be stuck to the bottom of the pan; stir in pancetta, peas, and remaining 1/4 cup broth. Cook until peas are just tender, maybe 2-3 minutes. Beat in grated parmesan.

Serve immediately, with a generous grating of black pepper.

Serves 6.