Recipes for Trouble

My Garden Risotto

There’s a story here.

It’s a garden begun in the cold early days of the pandemic, seeds placed tenderly in egg cartons and plastic clamshells. It’s the terrifying, glowing reality of isolation, distancing, and government neglect. It’s reading Arendt and Duras the first month of the pandemic, and meeting online with a hilarious group of women friends to talk about books and art and how we are navigating depression, isolation, and how we are finding joy.

It’s checking on those seedlings every day, taking them outside to harden as the sun edges higher and warmer in the sky, taking them inside at night, like kittens, or like something that could stand in for hope.

It’s the story of a queer neighbour who came by every week, whose partner built my front yard raised beds, and it’s how we left one another small packages, in paper bags left on doorsteps: pie, lasagna, homemade bread. It’s the trail and error of gardening, the failed peas, the triumphant cucumbers, the hesitant eggplant, the bewildering kohlrabi with its spaceship appearance, the profusion of cherry tomatoes, kale and basil. It’s pesto, and grilled kale salad and grilled eggplant, it’s quick pickled cucumbers, and quickly-swallowed cherry tomatoes tasting sweet, sour and alive.

It’s online workshops with LGBT refugees and their tender, aching stories, created on cellphones. It was #Solidarity and #NoOneLeftBehind but honestly it’s so many have left behind, and it’s not at all #weareallinthistogether but rather, #NoMoreShit and #BlackLivesMatter and #DefundthePolice.

It’s spring and summer, it was up and down, it was trauma and staying in place and noticing: the profusion of Northern cardinals; the subtle differences in shades of green; the kind neighbour two doors down who offered to trim the cedar tree; the activist filmmaker three doors down who sewed me a homemade mask.

It’s Zoom, it’s cocktails in front of the computer, it’s hysterical laughter and tears on the same call. It’s a best friend who flew in in July, just as we both reached the end of frayed ropes of resilience, it’s how we helped each other understand that it’s not where you travel, it’s who you travel to.

It’s been a 5-year-old kid who washes his hands with ferocity and plays like it’s his full-time job, it’s his mom who quietly inspires me with her creativity and resilience, it’s the childcare I’ve been doing so mom can work and kid can have a place to go. It’s kids taking over the road in front of my house, it’s the sound of their scooters in late afternoon as they emerge from home-schooling, all through that long and troubled spring.

It’s finding ways to get off the Zoom grid, it’s entertaining ourselves, it’s musicians quietly suffering from lack of gigs and lack of live music with which to nourish themselves, it’s a musical evening on my front porch, it’s brave experiments in queer theatre and social distancing, it’s realizing art is an essential service and feeling its absence like a kind of hunger.

It’s the healing presence of a flourishing front yard garden producing the eggplant, chard, green beans, red pepper & purslane that went into this garden risotto. It’s the inflammation that makes me need to eat fish, in this case Arctic char, marinated in maple syrup, lemon and tamari, and seared on a grill pan. It’s living alone during a pandemic and making a gorgeous meal for yourself no matter how undervalued your non-reproductive, marriage-resisting body may be. It’s food as celebration, as acceptance & saying, this is good, this will have to be good enough, right now.

It’s being here in this moment. Knowing how bad and how good it can be, and being there, anyway.

GARDEN RISOTTO

Serves 4 (if it’s just you, halve the recipe and save some for the next day)

This recipe is adapted from SimplyRecipes.com. You can substitute a myriad of other veg., like peas, corn, asparagus – whatever’s in season.

Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 large garlic clove, minced
  • 1 1/2 cups Arborio or other risotto rice
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 5 cups hot water
  • Salt and black pepper
  • 1/2 cup diced eggplant
  • 1/2 cup green beans, trimmed and halved
  • 2 green onions, chopped (white and green parts)
  • 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • 10-12 basil leaves, torn up small
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter (optional)

1 Heat the water: Bring the water to a simmer in a small pot.

2 Sauté garlic and rice in olive oil: In another pot, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. When the olive oil is shimmery hot, add the garlic and sauté until fragrant, about 30 seconds.

Stir in the rice and coat with the olive oil. Sauté, stirring constantly, for 2-3 minutes, at which point the rice will begin to smell nutty.

3 Add the wine: Add the white wine to the rice and stir. From this point on, you will be stirring the risotto rice almost constantly. After a minute or two the rice will have absorbed the wine and when you stir, the spoon will leave streaks on the bottom of the pan.

4 Start adding water, a cup at a time: Add a cup of the hot water to the pot. Add a generous pinch of salt. Stir until the water has been absorbed by the rice and your spoon is again leaving a trail at the bottom of the pan.

Add another cup of hot water and repeat.

5 Add the vegetables: When the second cup of water is absorbed, add the veg.

Add another cup of water and stir until it is absorbed.

Repeat with another cup of water and another healthy pinch of salt.

6 Stir in the green onions and Parmesan: By now the rice should be close to being done; it should be fully cooked but still al dente, a little firm, not completely soft. When the rice reaches this stage, stir in the green onions and grated parmesan.

When the water has been completely absorbed, add a little more water so the risotto is loose. The risotto should fill a bowl, not sit on a plate.

7 Stir in the basil and butter, and sprinkle with black pepper to taste. Once the butter has melted, serve at once.

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