Smilla had a sense of snow, a deep innate knowledge of this magical natural element. I have a sense a fashion, which is very personal and often difficult to understand. I can not match scarf and coat, not to mention shoes and clothes. I have a few pair of high heel shoes, but I seldom wear them, as I’m not able to walk with them: I almost instantly assume that staggering walk you have when one of your legs falls asleep if you’re sitting for too long in the same position. I do not have designer clothes, as I can not afford them but mostly because I’m not interested.
One wardrobe shelf is enough for my handbag collection. I wear them indiscriminately during summer or winter. My common sense is barely enough not to make me choose a colourful plastic handbag while the fog is entangles among tree branches or a felt handbag during the heat of summer. I mean, I tried to wear that felt bag in July once, I won’t tell you how hot it was.
I’d have artistic ambitions on fashion, too, I tried to find my own style, labeling it as colorful, simple, young. Those are just convenient labels I have chosen to justify so many daring matches which someone could see as at the limit of legality.
I just go crazy if I have to choose an outfit for an event or for a special night out, I try half of my wardrobe, including shirts that date back to another time, another age, another size. I try something, change idea, throw all the clothes on the bed. At the end I always choose the same pair of jeans and the same t-shirt (usually this) in which I recognize myself and feel comfortable. This is how I like myself. More than a style is a set of choices that make me feel good, ranging from long skirt with striped sweatshirt in a summer evening to jeans with lumberjack shoes in winter.
In the kitchen everything is different. I do not have closets full of clothes and shoes, but I have a pantry where the jars of flours and grains are perfectly aligned, in which textures, colours and patterns would make your head spin, even if you are a fashion victim. I do not have the latest fashion nail polishes, as I can not wear it while cooking, but I’ve got more than forty spices closed in glass jars, which are perfect to show their shades, a forecast of smells and aromas of distant places.
I collect beans – zolfini, cannellini, borlotti… – flours, sugars, cereals. I search for them, aiming for quality and local origin when possible, I neatly organize them in the pantry, then play with them in the kitchen.
My sense of fashion, matches and contrasting colours unleashes in the kitchen. When it comes to combine ingredients and flavours I’m not scared, it’s quite natural to me but, most importantly, I enjoy the whole process.
Speaking of matches, last week I made a butternut squash risotto. The idea was born as I needed to use some Carnaroli rice which was lying abandoned in its jar for a while and a thick slice of butternut squash, which I am enjoying at least once a day lately. How can you resist this emblematic Autumn vegetable which colours every recipe with orange hues and mellow flavour? I had also a bag of tiny and cute clams from the Adriatic sea, which I bought a few hours earlier captured by their shimmering look.
Thus a butternut squash risotto with clams became our lunch. I am perfectly aware that this is an unusual combination, but give it a go. It charms the eye with fashionable and contrasting colours, then creeps into your senses, becoming an accomplice in a renewed love for the seafood risotto in Autumn.
At first it seems an unusual and risky pairing. I had the same feeling as I was stirring the risotto in the pot while the clams where opening up in the pan, releasing their salty smell. Instead it turned out to be a winning match. Be generous with clams, they not only will add an unusual purple shade which will create a stunning colour contrast with the orange risotto, but will also soften the sweetness of the butternut squash with their natural saltiness.
You can make the risotto just with extra virgin olive oil and garlic, without adding butter or cheese. You will have a light first course which won’t miss a delicate creaminess, as the butternut squash will melt slowly while cooking.
I am pretty sure this will quickly become your Autumn seafood risotto: you can make it when you miss a sunny day at the beach with your toes firmly tucked into the sand, or when you need an orange note to warm up a grayish foggy November day.
- 2 cloves of garlic
- Extra virgin olive oil
- 600 g of butternut squash
- 350 g of Carnaroli rice
- 100 ml of white wine
- 1 kg of clams already cleaned
- About 1 liter of vegetable stock
- Sea Salt
- Fresh parsley
- Freshly ground black pepper
Peel the butternut squash and cut it into cubes. Cook the squash in a large thick-bottomed pot with a few tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil and a finely chopped clove of garlic on the lowest flame.
When the squash is soft, after about ten minutes, add the rice and toast it for a few minutes, stirring often. Pour the white wine and reduce. Cook the rice, gradually adding the hot stock and stirring constantly with a wooden spoon.
Meanwhile cook also the clams. Heat a clove of minced garlic and a few tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil in a large frying pan. Add the clams and cover them with a lid, until they will open.
When the rice is almost ready, add the clams with their cooking liquid, which will add a fresh sea taste to the risotto. Stir until the rice is cooked through but still al dente and serve with some fresh parsley and black pepper.