Holding my breath above water {Chinese 5-spice pumpkin risotto with goat cheese}


There is always a moment, it’s when she goes under water, that I hold my breath along with her.

I hold it until her head pops back up to the surface.

It’s what I do when I watch my daughter while she’s at swim class—a mother’s watchful eye.

For five and half nurturing years she’s been under my wings, a mother and child nesting together. And while I plan on keeping her there as long as possible, it’s inevitable that as she grows she will do things without me.

My heart aches slightly when I watch her dive under the water—there, my child, only five and diving under water, will she float back up?—for I know that there will be moments that I’ll have to loosen my grip and TRUST that she will be okay.

Her first time crossing the street alone
Her first time going to school alone
Her first time going out alone
Her first time taking a trip without me
Her first time moving out on her own
…and so on

For now I accept that there will be many moments that will have me holding my breath, awaiting relief.


The combination of pumpkin, sage, Chinese 5-spice + goat cheese is one I experimented with on a  blustery Fall day. For this spice that’s a blend of  Szechuan pepper, star anise, cloves, cinnamon and fennel seeds I head to Hong Kong supermarket in Chinatown.  I’ve also gotten this spice at Kalustyans, which I admit is my favorite spice shop. But this once hard-to-find spice is now sold at most supermarkets.

For the goat cheese (but do feel free to use Parmesan if you prefer), try a semi-firm goat, like the Garrotxa from Murray’s Cheese. It has a woodsy aroma that pairs well with the sage and pumpkin.
Hong Kong Supermarket is located at 157 Hester St at Elizabeth St

Kalustyans is located at 123 Lexington Ave between 29th + 28th

Murray’s Cheese has several locations around the city but I go to the one at 254 Bleecker St

Both Kalustyans and Murray’s offer mail order.

You can read more about these stores in iFoodShop NYC.


Chinese 5-Spice Pumpkin Risotto


  • 3 cups of fresh pumpkin (peeled and cubed)
  • 1 tablespoon (Chinese 5-spice)
  • 1 tablespoon (butter)
  • 4 shallots (chopped)
  • 5 cups of chicken or vegetable stock
  • 2 cups of Arborio rice ((more if needed))
  • 1/2 cup of white wine
  • 1/2 teaspoon of saffron
  • 1 tablespoon fresh sage (chopped)
  • 1/4 cup of goat cheese (crumbled)
  • Sea salt + freshly ground pepper (to taste)


Wrap cubed pumpkin in foil and bake at 350 F for 30 minutes. Meanwhile, sauté shallots in a little white wine. In a separate pan, bring the stock to a boil, then reduce heat to simmer. Once pumpkin is cooked, puree it in a food processor and set aside (you can also use an immersion blender, one of my favorite tools). Add rice to shallots and cook 2-3 minutes over moderate heat stirring frequently. Add wine and saffron and cook, stirring constantly until all the liquid has been absorbed. Add the pumpkin and 1 cup stock, stirring constantly. After that is absorbed, add the rest of the stock 1/2 cup at a time stirring constantly until absorbed until the rice is cooked (about 15-20 min). If you run out of stock add hot water. The risotto should be thick and creamy, and only slightly runny. When done remove from heat, add the sage, some goat cheese, and salt + pepper to taste.

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