Happy 2012: Fulfilling Spaces + Soup

by Julie

(new year's light sculpture, friends' courtyard)

After much anticipation, 2012 is here. I’ve been able to enjoy a lovely week at home, where, I realized, I’ve indulged in my very first staycation. It has been absolutely blissful. Eric put up our hammock in the front yard, and I’ve been taking my writing and reading materials outside with me in the mornings with a giant Mason jar of tea. The weather here in the Southwest has been gorgeous: sunny days, with a light breeze that travels through our open windows and re-energizes the whole house.

As I perch in the hammock, I’ve been reading this book to help shape my vision for what I want the house to look like, but more importantly, what shape I envision our home taking that will reflect our way of living.

The book opens with a quote from Rumi, which I’ve been thinking about a lot the last few days:

“Someone who goes with half a loaf of bread to a small place that fits like a nest around him; someone who wants no more, who’s not himself longed for by anyone else. He is a letter to everyone. You open it. It says, ‘Live!'”

Reading it has allowed me to make a mental list of how I use the spaces within the structure of our four walls, and to see which of those spaces carry the most meaning for daily tasks and purposes, and also, enjoyment and a sense of fulfillment.

Because the book focuses on small spaces (perfect for us: our home is only about 700 square feet!), it talks about building up the quality of a space–thereby increasing the quality of the time/life spent within that space–rather than its bulk and size.

For me, it came as no surprise to learn that the kitchen operates as the central room in our house. We practically live in that room (albeit how tiny it is!) whether it’s just the two of us or we have a house full of company.

This week at home, however, I was a bit surprised to learn how much I’ve loved taking bits of the kitchen outside with me: cutting boards and knives to chop vegetables, plates and cups for outside dining, and cookbooks and notebooks for meal planning.

I spent an afternoon this week setting up our garden: moving two tons of earth and building a brick wall around the perimeter. The garden is right outside a door leading to our kitchen, which will allow me to easily transition between these indoor/outdoor eating spaces. Already it feels as though both spaces are melding into one another, and I can’t wait to plant in a few weeks’ time. I imagine in the near future an evening when I have a craving for salad, step five feet outside my door, and pick exactly what I need right out of my yard.

(the kitchen door, leading outside to the garden)With the kitchen as a focal space, I’ve been hoping to approach our small space as if I’ve entered with Rumi’s metaphoric half a loaf of bread. To recognize the essentials of our ways of living and to build spaces around them. These contemplations have, at last, led to the Sunchoke-Leek Miso Soup below. Sunchokes (also known as Jerusalem Artichokes) are in season right now, and I’ve heard they’re super easy to grow–one of their bulbs might be the first thing I stick in the ground!

Sunchoke-Leek Miso Soup


2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

3 large sunchokes, cut into small diced pieces

2 carrots, cut into half-moons

2 small leeks, cut in full moons right up to the base of the stalk

1 cup uncooked long brown rice

14-ounces extra-firm tofu

1/4 head green cabbage, cut into large pieces or thin ribbons

2 tablespoons rice vinegar

2 tablespoons Mirin (rice cooking wine)

8 cups water

1 tablespoon red or yellow miso

salt, to taste

1/2 teaspoon (or to taste) each of thyme and basil

To Prepare:

Heat oil in a large stockpot over medium-lowheat. Stir in sunchokes, carrots, and leeks, and saute for 10-15 minutes, until carrots are sunchokes are beginning to soften. Add tofu and cabbage and cook for another 5 minutes.

Stir in brown rice, rice vinegar and Mirin and cook 1-2 minutes. Add your water and salt and bring pot to a boil. Once pot reaches a boil, reduce heat, cover pot, and cook until rice is tender, about 40 minutes. Turn off heat and let soup cool, uncovered, for 5 minutes. Gently stir in miso and spices. Add salt if desired, and serve warm.

Enjoy, and back tomorrow with recipes for the rest of the week.