I have always said that September is my spring.
As summer comes to an end, I feel a tremendous sense of beginning. Excited for new things to happen and the year to unfold.
We spent our last days in the Basque Country exploring. Little corners of the world that only my dad knows well. Remote villages, a river stream lined with fig trees, or a field filled with wildflowers where we spotted a few leftover poppies from spring. These are the places where my dad feels at ease and loves to share with us.
In the nature preserve of Pagoeta, we saw the first signs of autumn as maple trees were beginning to turn colors. The skies were bright blue and leaves burnt orange. Jon followed my dad’s footsteps with a wooden stick in hand looking for mushrooms and picking wild strawberries. “Aitite, can you tell me the tales of fairies and mountain giants?” Jon asked. Stories that my dad tells to him at night, before bedtime. He listened in awe as we walked the forest.
During our visits, my parents’ home becomes a gathering place. We sit tightly around their kitchen table, elbow to elbow, eating course after course. For one of our last meals, I cooked a risotto with russulas my dad had found and red kuri squash I brought back from our trip to Iparralde. “This is so good!” my brother shouted — nothing makes me feel better.
For dessert, a simple galette with mirabelle plums, white nectarines, and red currants. It was gone in minutes.
We also picked apples, figs, and peaches from my uncle Javi’s garden. We took a walk around the property with him as he talked about his passion for gardening and pastry, his day job. “This has been a strange growing season” he said “Tomatoes have not done well, yet chestnuts are already opening up”. Indeed. All the chestnut trees were full of bright green, prickly cocoons. Some even open — a sign of things to come.
Back at home I made a apple, prune, and yogurt cake, similar to this one. The last days of summer would not be the same without an apple cake.
No, they would not.
Red Kuri Squash and Wild Mushroom Risotto
Serves 4 to 6
4 to 5 cups chicken stock
2 Tbs olive oil
1 large shallot, minced
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 leek, washed and sliced
1/2 medium red kuri squash, peeled and diced into 1/2-inch pieces
1 cup thinly sliced wild mushrooms (we used the russulas we picked)
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups arborio rice
1/4 cup txakoli or any dry white wine you like
1/2 cup finely grated Idiazabal or Parmesan cheese
2 Tbs finely chopped parsley
Begin by heating the chicken stock over medium heat. Keep it warm until ready to use.
In a stock pot, heat the olive oil over medium high heat. Add the shallots, garlic, and leek. Cook until soft but not browned, about 3 minutes.
Add the diced red kuri squash. Stir and cook for 5 to 7 minutes. Add the mushrooms and cook for another 3 minutes. Season with salt.
Add the rice and stir it well so all the oil and flavors coat the rice. Add the txakoli or dry white wine and cook for 30 seconds until alcohol evaporates. Add 1 cup of chicken stock and cook stirring constantly until liquid is absorbed. Then proceed by adding another 1/2 cup of stock. Continue to cook the risotto storring constantly and adding more stock as needed until rice is cooked al dente, about 18 minutes.
Off the heat, add the grated Idiazabal and parsley. Stir to combine and serve immediately.