Monday, January 26, 2009

Rice Pudding Encounter

Rice Pudding has been pinging me from all over the planet. It wants my attention, and I resist.

First, I begin with my apologies to Rice Pudding. I’ve had an attitude that it’s bland, mundane, it takes too long to cook, and it has far too few healthy attributes. So why bother? There are more interesting things to think about. Like custard. I adore anything with custard.

This avoidance must go back to the egg-thing: that deprivation of eggs we were all tied up in knots over for so long. Way too much cholesterol and fat! And now, even women of a certain age are caught up in the need for more calcium – must take care of those bones! I’m consuming more milk, yogurt, and cheese than ever.

Ah, echoes of comforting custard, the sublime solution! Not too long ago, I even toyed with the idea of developing a custard cookbook. I’ve collected untold ideas, recipes, photos – all related to custard. You can rest easy; there will be plenty of those unctuous treats woven thru the entries here. Clafoutis, don’t get me started!

Not too long ago I had a container of leftover rice sitting in my fridge. Hmmm, Rice Pudding is calling, but I’m not answering. Instead, enter previously mentioned Stuffed Cabbage Rolls, an excellent decision. Shortly after that, while rooting through a cupboard; I noticed an abundance of rice – 3 or 4 different types. Of course, thoughts went to risotto, paella, maybe soup, surely not Rice Pudding.

Then the brain storm. Why not try making Rice Pudding in the microwave??! I consulted Barbara Kafta’s authoritative book, Microwave Gourmet and was intrigued. The door was open.

Even from Kafta’s perspective, pre-cooked rice is the way to go. As a footnote in that regard, I find it easier to boil my rice instead of steaming it. It’s a snap to simply add about 1/3 the prescribed amount of cooked rice in its raw form to plenty of boiling water and simmer away for about 20 minutes. When it’s al dente, pour the rice into a sieve or strainer and allow it to drain and cool until needed.

Wouldn’t you know, it took me two rounds to get Rice Pudding right? Round one, I let it cook away in the microwave, unsupervised. Don’t. Be wary until you know how Rice Pudding with get along with your microwave. Ignored, it boiled over and I had one sorry mess on my hands. Fortunately, it was retrievable and edible, just not smart.

Round two, I watch Rice Pudding like a hawk, nodding and smiling diplomatically; an occasional stir, I murmur appreciatively as it transforms into a creamy, dreamy delight. Yes, Rice Pudding, you have me convinced and I will share you with my friends.

Divine Resolution, worthy of a visual record, Rice Pudding is a success... except for dropping my sticky camera on the floor and traumatically jamming the telephoto lens. Ah, Rice Pudding, joy upon joy.

Simple Pudding, Simple
Ready in under 30 minutes. Inspired by Barbara Kafta’s Microwave Gourmet

3 cups cooked white rice (1 cup rice cooked yields about 3 cups)
1/3 cup sugar
2 cups milk
1/2 cup raisins
pinch salt
1 egg
1/3 cup milk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla

In a 4-quart glass measurer combine cooked rice, sugar, milk, raisins and pinch of salt. Cover with plastic wrap and cook in microwave for 5 minutes. Watch carefully towards end of cycle for boil over.

Remove wrap and stir well. Cover and cook 2 minutes longer, again watch carefully towards end of cooking cycle to avoid boil over. Repeat another 30 seconds longer, until it begins to boil.

With a fork beat remaining 1/3 cup milk, 1 egg and vanilla. Temper this with about 1/3 hot milk from rice mixture, and slowly add to rice, stirring to combine thoroughly. Cover and return to microwave for about 1 minute 30 seconds, avoid boiling. The milk custard should just coat the spoon. Serve warm or room temperature. Serves 6 ~~

Monday, January 19, 2009

Hi Ho, Silver!

It's time to get back up on that pony and ride again. The holidays are over and I've simply run out of excuses. I have been away from the Blogosphere too long and I've dearly missed my favorite therapeutic indulgence, the enduring challenge of writing about food and sustainability.

It was easy this past summer and fall. The discoveries and revelations spun from the heady abundance of fresh, luscious produce created a sense of urgency worth sharing. Now, with winter in full thrust, thoughts and experiences surrounding comfort food seem far less compelling. Whatever!

I've noticed my style of eating (and yes, weight, too) has changed greatly with my shift in locales and seasons. When it was blazing hot outside, salads and lighter meals made sense. These days I have to work at my vegetable intake. The solution lately has been cabbage, a good thing since the markets are full of it. In my fridge, there is typically one rolling around, forgotten and patiently waiting for its number to come up. It's especially handy in slaw form, a great crunchy addition to tacos and burgers.

A bit of further digging on the merits of cabbage tells me that it is high in vitamin C - a nice winter benefit. Also, the generic green cabbage will store 1 to 2 months in a cool place; a positive addition to soups and stews. I'm reminded of the French expression of endearment, ma petite chou, or ‘my little cabbage’. Very classy, indeed.

In this colder climate, I’m eating more, and thinking about foods I haven't considered for years: cassoulets and chowders, and of course, things with cabbage... like Golabki, or Polish stuffed cabbage. I like making these little rolls when the need to play with my food emerges. This is a great social activity with kids or just a wonderful meditational exercise. The bit of brown sugar and raisins on the finish is reflective of the Polish influence.

Polish Stuffed Cabbage Rolls

1 cabbage head
1 pound ground beef
1/2 pound ground turkey
1 cup cooked long grained rice
1/2 cup onion, finely diced
1/2 cup celery, diced
2 cloves garlic, crushed
½ tsp. salt and pepper, approx.

14 oz. can tomatoes, crushed
1/2 teaspoon dried dill
salt to taste
1 1/2 tablespoons brown sugar, approximate
2 tablespoons raisins, approximate

Separate and blanch cabbage leaves briefly in boiling water. Drain and set aside. Reserve @ 1 cup water. Pre-cook the rice, if not readily available.

Oil 9x12" casserole dish or dutch oven. Place unusable leaves on bottom of dish, with a bit of available sliced onion, an additional light sprinkling of dill and salt and pepper.

For the rolls: combine filling items. Place heaping tablespoonful of stuffing at largest end of leaf, roll and fold sides in, and finish roll. Place one layer of rolls close together, seam side down in dish. Add reserved water to moisten bottom of dish.

Top rolls with crushed tomatoes, and season with dill and salt and pepper. Sprinkle lightly with sugar and raisins. Cover the dish with foil and bake at 325 degrees for about 1 1/2 hours. Serves 4-6~~


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