What is comfort, anyway?

by cindy winetroub rogers

The red plaid flannel shirt with the frayed hem, appropriated from the architect boyfriend who was11 years older and infinite ways more advanced.

Lucy, the sock monkey that went to camp, college, and apartment after apartment, and who sits, one arm missing, next to the alarm clock today.

Leonard Cohen singing Hallelujah.

Late night viewings of Gaslight, Cat Ballou, and Fiddler on the Roof on the 1970-something Magnavox console television with your Dad — your infant daughter on your lap or his belly — during what you didn’t know then would be the last year of his life.

Sitting between a 93 year-old woman and your 10-year old daughter, making paper flowers at the Jewish Home on Mitzvah Day.

Watching Princess Buttercup drift down into Fezzik’s arms while snuggled with said daughter and your small menagerie on the couch over Christmas break.

When Sunday morning stretches into Sunday afternoon, and the only things begging attention are the New York Times Book Review and crossword puzzle, and a few short story collections and recipe books.

90-minute phone calls with your sister, even though you hate talking on the phone.

Your dog’s endless smile, as you stroll together through Mt. Hope Cemetery.

A letter from a friend you knew years and lifetimes ago. Long, but never lost.

The last word of the last sentence on the last page of a good novel or short story.

The text that reads, “Landed.”

Risotto on a cold, damp day — or any day, for that matter.

photo 1

Risotto with roasted fennel, zucchini, garlic, onion and tomatoes, and fresh tarragon

Part 1:

Roast your preferred vegetables and aromatics in olive oil and salt and pepper in 350° oven for a half hour. (You could certainly sauté them, but for coaxing the full, rich sweet flavor of anything, nothing beats roasting.)

Part 2.

Melt a tablespoon or two of butter with a tablespoon or two of olive oil in sturdy pot.

Add a cup or two of Arborio rice and stir a few minutes.

Add ½ to 1 cup of dry white wine and stir on high till liquid starts to bubble and disappear into the rice.

photo 3

Add chicken broth ½ cup at a time, letting it almost evaporate before adding the next. (Figure on double the amount of rice. 1 cup rice, 2 -3 cups broth/wine.)

 Daydream, listen to the radio, try to solve the world’s problems, sip wine, whatever — as long as you keep stirring.

When you add the final ½ cup of broth into the pot, add the roasted vegetables as well. And, you know the drill, keep stirring till the liquid is nothing but a thin veil.

photo 2

Add 1/2 to 1 cup of freshly grated Parmesan cheese and the freshly cut tarragon and fennel frond, then turn off the heat, cover, and let sit a minute or two.

Part 3:

When ready to eat, pour another glass of white wine, sprinkle with more cheese and herbs, and let the toothy, rich earthiness penetrate your soul.

To nurture your brain as well, consider tossing in baked or roasted salmon at the last minute.