Saturday, October 8, 2011

Buddha's Hat & risotto recipe

View from the kitchen sink.
Dear Kindred Spirits,
     I'm not sure if you have a Buddha living at your house, but if he lives outside like ours, it might be time to get him geared up for winter.  First, find an acorn squash at the grocery store, or if you're really lucky, at the farmers market.  Look for one with a funky stem.  Cut the top of the squash so that the circumference is about 3 inches across.  It'll look like a flower looking down at it.  Now find a sunny windowsill and let this part dry for a few weeks.  You'll see over time, how it'll curl in on itself and form a bit of a 'hat'.  When it's almost dry, put it on Buddha's head for a form fit.  The final results will be very satisfying and make you laugh every time you look at it.  Maybe the local squirrels will discover it too, it won't interrupt the joy factor in the long run.
     Risotto Recipe; all measurements are approximate.  Peel the above mentioned acorn squash, take out seeds and boil or bake until done but firm.  You'll know it's ready when you mash it and it'll break down but still have lumps in it.  Lumps are yummy.  Add vegetable or chicken broth so that you have about 5 cups of liquid in all, simmering.  In a large cast iron cooking pot, fry an onion and 5-6 cloves of garlic.  When well cooked pour in about 1/2 cup of white wine.  Now pour in about 1.5 or 2 cups of Arborio rice (also known as sushi rice), these are fatter and rounder grains.  Stir the rice into the wine, onion and garlic mixture until the rice is translucent, about 2-3 minutes.  Then add about a 1/2 cup of your squash liquid, keep stirring, as it thickens, add more liquid when it gets goopy.  This is the basic combination; keep adding liquid until it's all gone and the rice is tender in a kind of sauce - a long process without a glass of wine.  It's good to have and use lots of liquid to make your risotto nice and gooey.  As the rice reaches it's right texture, add grated cheese.  We like to use Cheddar, blue cheese or Swiss or a combination. This usually makes a large pot so the second night you can make risotto cakes by making patties, dipping them in bread crumbs and frying.  Top with pesto/sour cream sauce.  Asparagus is a nice side dish.

Amsterdam Sandwich Shop

Formal entrance way
     Funny where ideas and inspirations come from and how long they steep and peculate before erupting into a new form.  In the spring of 2001, I visited friends in Holland who are close to my heart and sensibilities.  Karin and Anne-Marie guided me with great care and humour and would routinely say to shop keepers and relatives alike that I lived in a cabin in the Yukon bush, in a community of 24 people.  I was grateful for this ready explanation because I often felt out of sorts and discombobulated with the hectic rhythm of the place.  Especially in Amsterdam where I could only handle so much before heading south on a train back to Anne-Marie's sanctuary.
     On one visit to the capital city, they took me to a tiny sandwich shop near the red light district bordering Chinatown in Karin's neighbourhood.  This place was completely unnoticeable to me, only blending into the many doorways conveniently coexisting in an orderly barrage of chaos.  We ordered a type of grilled thing with coffee and we were each served on a different style of plate and cup.  This is what caught my attention and I learned that just about every item in this place was for sale; the dishes, the tables and chairs... The owners were collectors of interesting bits and kept an assortment of second hand treasures in a narrow mezzanine overhead, open to the curious and the interested.  I came home with a simple plate and idea.
     So in the spirit of that tiny hole-in-the-wall in that place far away whose name I never knew, I wanted to present the same concept here at the lake, with the Curiosity Shop.  It's full of things we collect in our travels in exotic locations like Guatemala, Africa, even Holland.  When we travel we also collect beads, paper and fabrics to then turn into other things here during the long winter months.  Plus the shop has stuff that I've unearthed, collected and loved that other people would call antiques and vintage, that are ready to move on to other homes to be loved and re-purposed.