One of the few advantages of my unexpected blogging hiatus is that I have stockpiled enough panier posts to get us through the next several weeks sans new fodder. Although I will never get used to receiving the notification that my vegetable deliveries are stopping just when things are getting good, through the month of August (images of overflowing baskets of warm summer peaches, tomatoes off the vine and copious zucchini dancing through my head), I do recognize that this is la vie française – here vacations are untouchable, even for vegetables. Knowing that my return to California is inching closer each day, I have been trying to see friends as much as possible. Between my long days in the lab and their varying vacation schedules, this has been a bit of a challenge. Yet, with birthdays to celebrate, vacations to kick-off and a truly summery panier (peas! In their pods! More strawberries! The first of the summer’s zucchini!), this evening came together with very little effort and was filled with tasty food and raucous laughter. Food-wise, once I saw the green peas and zucchini, risotto immediately jumped to my mind as a good option to serve our group of six (especially as it includes a few dedicated vegetarians). For me, risotto used to be something relegated to a fancy dinner out – a dish that I always enjoyed but could not imagine making myself, especially as a superficial glance at risotto recipes across the internet did nothing to abate my fear of spending the entire evening slaving over a hot stove. Camille’s excellent tutorial debunked that myth for me long ago and today, using her template as a starting point, risotto has become a familiar dish in my kitchen, especially as a delicious way to use extra panier fare. On this particular evening, I sautéed shallots and mixed in roasted zucchini, fresh peas and goat cheese. Good reviews were given all the way around, which means even more coming from Camille, she of the initial inspiration for my culinary creativity.
Having (almost) all the girls together for the first time in many months to share stories, food and (not a small amount of) wine was such a pleasure. Especially when one of them pulled out a collection of Fingerstaches, a stellar birthday present she was gracious enough to share with the rest of us. General hilarity ensued, as can be imagined. I laughed harder than I have in a long time – hard enough that my abs hurt the next day (probably a comment on my abs – or lack thereof – but also very positive commentary on the wit of my friends). I spent the evening constantly reminded of how incredibly lucky I have been to connect with such amazing people and also sad at the thought of walking away, yet again, from people I love. However, I know that friends like these do not fade with distance. Plus, a girls (long) weekend to San Diego is going to sound mighty fine come the cold, dark days of February in Paris. See you there???