I’m feeling nearly, kinda, almost close to my old self, just in time to meet my old nemesis: Hay Fever. My daily post-work wandering about yesterday got squeezed down into a brisk 40 minute walk up and down the neighbourhood hills and by the time I got back I sounded like a trampled accordion. Yikes!
The arrival of allergies also means spring and all the yummy goodies that comes with it. I think I might have to send DH off to gather us up some young stinging nettle. The garlic in my backyard is shooting up nicely and I’m planning out what else I’m going to stick into the ground now that the Spring is starting to creep in.
But it’s not here yet. As lovely as yesterday was, the evening was chilly and there’s rumors of another cold system coming in. There may be a chance for a good climbing weekend! DH and I are probably the only ones on this island hoping for colder temperatures. We don’t voice our weather hopes too loudly for fear of being run out of town :0
Though my walk left my lungs a bit soggy, it revived the rest of me, especially my brain. I spent the rest of the day bopping from appointment to errands and putting up posters for the Nanaimo 100 Mile Diet challenge wherever I saw a bulletin board. I ended off the day with a fly-by knitting lesson. My knitting apprentice and I rendezvoused at a mall parking lot during her coffee break for a quick tutorial on the seaming and I-cords. It was the most clandestine knitting lesson I’d ever given. I was half-expecting mall security to come knocking on the window and bust us for indecent public knitting. LOL!
By the time I got home it was way past 8pm and I was starving. A look through the fridge and pantry revealed few possibilities. I had a couple cups of leftover roasted squash, roasted garlic, a few strips of smoked bacon and bunch of collard greens that were needing to get used up pronto!
I could have made a pasta but I was jonesing for stick-to-your-ribs winter comfort food. I decided on risotto. I ended up roasted garlic and butternut squash risotto topped with smoked bacon, toasted hazelnuts with spicy, garlic greens. A healthy grating of Natural Pasture’s Boerenkaas cheese topped off this satisfying dish. The only ingredient that wasn’t grown on this island was the rice. I even used smoked bacon fat to sauté some shallots and the risotto rice in. Stop clutching your heart! It was only about 2 teaspoons for bacon fat stretched over the whole dish. In fact, despite DH’s second and third helpings, I still have leftovers for tonight.
The smoked bacon fat gave the rice a deep, savoury richness. So much so that I chose not to add any cheese or butter to finish off the risotto, as you normally would for a traditional risotto. Instead I added only a grating of cheese as garnish. In a way, by using the smoked bacon fat I decreased the amount of fat normally used in this dish ;)What a gorgeous harmony of flavors! The sweet roasted squash and garlic played nicely against the crispy, savory bacon. The garlicy, spicy greens provided a balanced counterpoint with it's pleasant green bitterness and shift in textures. The hazelnuts and cheese helped tie up all the flavors nicely. The rice, itself was creamy and comforting without being gooey and gummy. For those that think that risotto is a high-maintanence dish to make, it's not. Despite what all those cookbooks and the Food Network tells you, it doesn't need to be stirred constantly for 20 minutes. It needs regular stirring for the first 5-8 minutes. Then after that, you just need to stir it up a bit when you add in more stock. Between stirrings, I managed to wash, chop and cook up the greens, wash up the few dishes I had dirtied, shell and chop the hazelnuts, grate the cheese and clean up the kitchen. I had dinner done in under 25 minutes.
For a Fast & Dirty risotto instructions, check out my previous entry, Comfort Food and Knits.
With a happy belly, I settled into my knitting corner for some major frogging. I had managed to knit up the rest of the back of the Honeymoon sweater the night before but had made some wonky calculations on the shaping of the waist and had to redo it again. Oh well. I convinced myself I didn't really like the way the branches and leaves were shaping up in the silhouette. With new calculations and new game plan, I finished up the rest of the back panel for my sweater (for the second time). I think in total, I’ve knitted up this back panel three times. I used a mix of intarsia and cabling techniques to create the silhouette. I didn't like the chunky, pixelated look of intarsia for the limbs of the tree. I wanted nice, smooth limbs since I was trying to create an Arbutus tree effect. Instead, I used a mix of increase and decrease techniques to shape the limbs. Intarsia worked fine for the leaves. For the background, I used a mix of Noro Kureyon and Silk Garden. Mostly it was yarns leftover from past projects. Since I wanted a particular colour pattern to echo the shift from land to ocean to sunset, I seperated the yarn into colour groups and felted them in the order that I wanted. It didn't take very long and I'm thrilled how it all turned out.
I’m still not sure what I’m going to do for the front panels. I’m thinking some of a wrap sweater design. I’ve been flipping through a Japanese clothing design book from the library. I might incorporate an obi into it or maybe a haori tie to close up the front. Who knows what my wheezy little brain will think up :p