Tuesday, September 7, 2010


I've been at work in my new study all day, a room that has become the favorite hangout of the cats and that also has become, truth be told, my favorite hangout, too.  Our apartment now possesses that wonderful lived-in-one-month feeling: still clean and fairly organized, but homey, too.  Muscle memory  has begun to shift to new faucet handles and furniture placement, and the smells and sounds are becoming familiar--a blend of our own soaps and spices and candles along with the wood and paint scent of this old former rectory. 

Soon I'll share photos of this unique place.  For now, I'll tell you that my workshop has a special step that leads up to a French door.  That door in turn leads out to a glass porch which has become the home of plants and herbs and a little pottery fountain filled with favorite stones.  I let the fountain run all afternoon while I work and the cats nap.  There is a comfort in this even as I work on writing that is not always pleasant or easy.

And then there is life with which to contend.  I worry too much.  I fret about things I cannot control.  I long to protect the people I love.  We all do this, yes, and it's part of what makes us whole.  When I can't fix problems, when I can't make things right, when I can't help someone get well again or find them a new job or give them whatever it is they need for body and soul, I reach for what I know: a word or two of comfort, a wooden spoon, a mixing bowl.  I measure what I can give, and try to make each portion a little larger, a little fuller, a little richer than before.  What more can we offer in hard times than  our best selves?  

In terms of giving, I know of few things more comforting than a bowl of risotto after a long hard day.  I made this one, and Todd and I scooped spoonfuls into our mouths as fast as we could, dipping straight into the pot for seconds.  It's a variation of a wonderful recipe by Nigella Lawson (from Nigella Bites).  Mine takes many, many liberties, and is very playful.  You can vary risotto to suit your tastes and what you've got in your pantry.  I've made dozens and dozens of risottos, and I rarely make any two the same!

Lemon-Comfort Risotto
Serves 4 as a main dish or 6 as a side
  • Very finely mince one scallion or a couple of shallots and one stalk of celery.
  • In a large saucepan, saute the minced vegetables in one Tablespoon olive oil and two Tablespoons butter.
  • Add 1 1/3 cup arborio rice.  Saute for a minute or so.
  • At this point I begin ladling in warm vegetable stock.  I make my own stock, but you can use good store-bought stock.  It's important to keep it warm on the stove and ladle it in as needed.  The amount you'll need will vary depending on the weather and how humid a day it is.  As you add a ladleful of stock, stir the risotto.  Add another ladle when the mixture thickens.  Keep letting the rice absorb the stock before you add more liquid.  Some people like relatively soupy risotto while others like it thicker.  That's up to you.  The most important thing is that the rice be cooked all the way through.  It should be creamy when you taste it, but with just a little chew, like great al dente pasta.  It takes less than a half hour to reach that wonderful creamy consistency.
  • Once the rice is nearly finished, I stir in the zest of a lemon and some finely chopped fresh thyme and parsley.  Basil would be nice, too.  Nigella uses rosemary, but I like milder herbs for this.  
  • At this point, I take the risotto off the heat.
  • In a little bowl I whisk an egg yolk, a few Tablespoons of sour cream or heavy cream, the juice of half a lemon, and a few Tablespoons of grated parmesano reggiano, then I pour this whole mixture into the risotto.
  • Give it a stir, spoon it into bowls.
  • Top each bowl with a little more grated cheese, a sprinkling of the fresh herbs, salt and freshly grated pepper, and a little bit of butter.  Let the butter pool on top.  
  • Sigh at the sight of your beautiful creation, and then dig in.  Pure comfort in a bowl.


  1. This looks absolutely divine. I could easily scarf down that entire dish-full right now! (love-love that gorgeous brown transferware, too)

  2. Thanks, Willow. Oh, and I can never get enough brown transferware--my very favorite!

  3. Mmm! I have yet to try making risotto... sounds delicious! Glad you are settling in. :) xoxo

  4. Your words like that delicious risotto are comfort food for alot of us here...just beautiful! I look forward to hearing more about your new place - it sounds wonderful! Have a fabulous week, lovely Gigi! xxoo :)

  5. Ive always wanted to make a risotto. This one sounds delicious!

  6. Comfort food.
    Just the best idea ever. Risotto is a good choice.
    And down here, cheese grits always seem to make things better.

  7. Gigi ~

    If only I could just hop on over and have a big bowl of that delicious risotto, my day would be much happier.


  8. Risotto is such a great autumn comfort food. I made a fennel and walnut risotto this week and ahve been eating the left-overs for lunch all week. Delicious!

  9. The space you are creating sounds as warm and comforting as, well a bowl of good risotto.

    Lovely post.

  10. I love risotto, I haven't made it in a while...must do that soon. I love how you can use anything you have...bits of fresh brocoli, shrimp...as long as you add the parmesan cheese...yummy!

    I am also a "fixer". If you read my post today you will understand how frustrated I've been the past days...too many people to fix and I can't do much for any of them.

  11. ...yummy...I am really looking forward to seeing your new apartment!...charming blog!

  12. Look forward to seeing more. The risotto recipe looks divine. I can't wait to try it. Thanks!

  13. You know I love those dishes! I'm pretty sure I have bowls with the same pattern:) I've been collecting brown transferware for a long time...

    ...and this risotto looks like a poem! Risotto is Mr O's favorite comfort food...I'm sure he wishes I made it more often:)

    ...so glad your home is shaping up:) can't wait to see more of it...

  14. Hi Gigi,
    Your new home sounds lovely and you are gradually making it your own.I now have a picture in my head of you, working in your study, the cats at your feet and the gentle and relaxing sound of water.
    I have all of Nigella's cook books and have made this risotto. De-li-cious. Having just returned from Tuscany this is at the forefront of my culinary creations at the moment.

  15. Your words are as delicious as your risotto, Gigi--this is beautiful... food for the body and soul! I always try to portion out, to ladle up BIG portions... Be it LOVE or risotto. ;o) I have a cold at the moment, so risotto would be good about now...mmm... Happy Days ((HUGS))

  16. I love reading about your new study. I am so glad that you are settling in and feeling at home. I agree with the others that your words are as comforting as your risotto. You have created a warm, filling space here, and we keep returning for more!

  17. What more can we offer in hard times than our best selves? I love this. So much, I love this!

  18. Oh my. I love this too, very much. Your words, thoughts, the picture and the recipe. I'm going to need some lemons. Thank you so much.

  19. This sounds delicious! And your photos are looking just beautiful...Happy Autumn.

  20. Oh, this sounds so yummy and comforting. I have been intimidated by the process of making risotto. Maybe I should dare myself to try it!

    And yes....just what Relyn said. Yes.


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