neighborhood rice

Moving into a more rural life has given me the space and time to watch the path of my intelligence and where it leads to creative expression. From architecture work, to quilting, wood stacking, gardening, cooking, working with the dogs, and even charting a path in the woods, I’ve found the process to be the same. There is a thought that arises. It is pondered and even some action initiated which inspires the thought to travel further down the wave it is on and feel for a conclusion. Ultimately, there comes a point where the value of this expression is considered. What is the purpose? Who am I serving? Why does this feel so important?

I’ve recently discovered a whole new network of paths in the woods of my neighborhood. It was a thrilling morning realizing how much more there was to explore and discover here, the beauty and sacredness of this place becoming even bigger. The paths here were as prominent on this side of the Eagle Nest ridge as the other side I was accustomed to walking. There had to be connections between these two networks of paths.



And so began a series of days of moving forward into the unknown to find these connections. Of course they were there.


Not as clear, not as well travelled, but they were there. It took days of venturing just so far, feeling lost, and moving toward what I knew before finding my usual path. Eventually the loop was formed, the connection made, and my world opened up anew all over again. With Yogi on leash throughout this discovery time and our bond solidly formed, I felt the confidence to let him off leash, to chase his sister and return when it is time. Is it enough that I am supporting my beloved companions in finding their freedom in relationship too?

I get it that someone like Donald Trump might feel justified in not paying personal taxes when he supposedly supports so many in his businesses. But does he? Who knows. I think a lot about the required ‘self-employed’ tax I have to pay in full, that for me, can seem like a large amount in relation to a modest income. And then personal income taxes too. Why shouldn’t even Trump have to pay? Something isn’t right here and it infuriates me that his own sense of entitlement blinds him to this, and the millions who supposedly support him. My rant, I know. I get it that our American way is built on rewarding those who think they create more than those who just simply work. It is not lost on me that the intelligent individual sitting at the top creating for many is more valued than the equally intelligent individual creating for self and/or family. I get it that the great demise of our culture that is sliding into an abyss of need and entitlement requires something bold and radical, perhaps the letting go of something known and dear, to create change. What if supporting each other to make the connections we are each led to make, was enough? If creation could be a contribution that might not be about money as the standard of value first?

The fact that I revel in the joy of creating every day doesn’t feel like enough. I spend far too much time wondering how this happened. How the woman of her twenties alive with the hubris of creating BIG became the woman in her fifties who moves from one day to the next trusting the universe and living instead in a big sea of daily small creations. Is this better or worse? Am I betraying my roots, my intelligence, my unique ability to make a contribution to the community I am a part of?

My next door neighbor hosted a neighborhood potluck last weekend. I started thinking about my contribution way in advance, eventually settling on a rice dish. I pulled out my folder of stained well used recipes, perhaps the fragrant Indian basmati, or the vegetarian paella. I considered which pan would cook and hold a quantity to serve many. While I walked, both possibilities rested in my awareness, waiting for the connection I needed to give me my answer. As usual, I determined to use what was at hand, a bag of jasmine rice, a bin full of fresh vegetables from my local organic farmer, some lemons, my giant cast iron pan. I wanted the simplicity of the Indian version but the robustness of the Spanish version. Eventually, and just in time, what I needed to see came into view. Finely minced vegetables, leek, garlic and onion that would in their translucency, blend seamlessly with the rice. A vegetable stock laced with fresh lemon juice. Just one or two key spices, ground fennel and saffron. Cook it like paella in the cast iron pan to allow a thinner layer of rice to absorb the most flavor.

Her house filled with the inhabitants of our tiny hamlet and then some. We talked about the history and beauty of where we are, and how many of us love to walk these woods. It was a beautiful gathering, heartfelt, with expressions of gratitude for the growing life that exists here now after years of minimal presence. By the end of the evening it became clear that everyone enjoyed the rice I had made and there were many requests for the recipe. I wrote it all down before forgetting, happy to share this way. For me, it will always be called neighborhood rice**, embodying the value of what being here has to offer, making heartfelt connection in every way. In the end I realize that even the challenge of this upcoming election and what it triggers for me as a middle class baby boomer American woman, can’t deter me from continuing to explore and cherish being here right now on this particular path.


**Neighborhood Rice

2 cups Jasmine rice
Olive oil, butter
2 large cloves garlic, 1/2 small onion, 3″ section fresh leek, 1 ripe plum tomato, all      finely minced
Juice of one large fresh lemon
3-4 cups vegetable stock (or made with boullion)
Ground fennel, salt, pepper, 6-8 strands saffron

1. Soak rice for ten minutes, put in colander and rinse until water runs clear,  let drain while preparing vegetables.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2. Warm up stock in a pot.  If using boullion, dissolve in boiling water.  Add lemon juice.  Set aside

3. Heat enough oil to just cover bottom of pan on medium high heat.  I use a cast iron skillet.  For two cups rice, a 10″ or 12″ skillet, or a 13″ paella pan will be just right.  The point is to have a shallow enough depth so the rice will cook without a lid.  (The first time I made this, I used my giant 15″ Lodge cast iron skillet with four cups rice and seven cups stock)

4. Add garlic, onion, and leeks and saute for about five minutes until translucent, stirring frequently.

5. Add about 1/2 teaspoon ground fennel, salt and pepper, stir a few times, then add tomato and about a tablespoon butter.  Stir for another minute or two.

6. Add rinsed rice and stir fry everything together for about 3-4 minutes.  Rice should be thoroughly coated with fats and herbs.

7. Turn heat up to high and slowly add 2-3/4 cups stock, stirring until mixture begins to simmer.  Add saffron.  Bring it all to a boil and continue cooking for about 5 minutes until mixture is thick and bubbly.

8. Put pan in preheated oven, uncovered.  After 15 minutes, liquid will be mostly absorbed, add enough additional stock to keep rice visibly wet, stir, bake another 10 minutes and repeat.  After adding stock and stirring the second time, smooth out rice in pan with spatula.  Bake another 10 minutes or so.  Rice should be moist, firm, and soft to bite with a taste. (When it cools, it will all bind together gently and it will come out of the pan in sections, like a cake.)

9. Turn off oven and let pan cool there while chopping a handful of fresh parsley and/ basil.  Take pan out of oven, sprinkle with herbs and cover with linen towel.  Let cool to just warm or room temperature and serve.


4 thoughts on “neighborhood rice

  1. I love your writing, photographs and this recipe. Whenever I make rice, I start off the way you do…must be the Albanian in us. By the way, I also have taken on a new puppy to go along with my 11 year old girl. Enjoying every minute of it.


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