Filtering by Tag: kitchen tips

Rice Pudding, Revisited

My first-ever post on this blog, almost exactly three years ago, was for rice pudding - a recipe I had taken directly from a cookbook and proceeded to ruin. I posted it anyway, imploring my imaginary readers to "not mess it up like I did." Oh, me.  

I suppose I posted it (despite its flaws) because I don't really care for exact science (measuring, temperatures, what have you) when it comes to food, nor do I care when things aren't perfect. I just don't think anyone has time for that, frankly. "Good enough" is actually pretty good.

Part of my philosophy when I coach cooking students is to help them get out of their heads and have FUN, without feeling enslaved by recipes. I do recognize, though, that there's a baseline skill and comfort level that has to be achieved before this can happen. 

One of the biggest building blocks you can understand - something that will help you for the rest of your life - is learning about why balanced foods taste good and how to correct your dish if it's tilted too far one way or another. As chefs, we look for the magic spot where lightness meets dark, where sweetness meets salt, where crunch meets silk, where acid meets fat. It's the slaw brightening the pulled pork, the herbs grazing your meaty stew, the cool yogurt on your spicy daal. It's salt and lemons. 

Anyway - in honor of 3 years of hosting dinner parties under an official moniker, here's another rice pudding recipe. It's a more interesting and healthful version of sticky rice and mango, if you're a fan of that.

Coconut and Persimmon BREAkfast rice with Cashews and Lime


In a small pot, measure 1 cup of white rice (basmati or jasmine are both fine). Add 1 can of coconut milk, one cup of mylk (pick your favorite - I used almond), and a big pinch of salt. Cover and bring to a boil, then lower your heat and simmer for about 20 minutes.  Note: feel free to use brown rice, but you'll need an additional cup of liquid and more time to cook. 

Your rice will be wet, but that's good. In fact, you might want to add even more mylk to loosen it up if it gets dry. It's not a pudding, per se, but more like pappy soft breakfast rice. 

While your rice is cooking, dice your fuyu persimmon. Make sure to use the crunchy, squat fuyus - hachiyas are soft and very tannic (I'm not a fan). Squeeze lime over the persimmon generously, tossing to cover. 

Chop ~1/3 cup of cashews roughly. In a 325* oven or in a pan over low heat, toast the cashews until light brown. 

In a bowl, serve a generous scoop of coconut rice and top with limey persimmons and cashews. Drizzle raw honey generously over everything, and sprinkle with finely chopped lemon balm, bee balm, or mint. 

Musings: little indescribables

Morning at Oz Farm

My (limited) experience so far in life has taught me that my own ideas of what I should expect or what might happen cannot possibly comprehend what will actually present. I'm especially ready for that element of mystery these days as I continue to make weighty life decisions with very little to go on besides my gut. Rebecca Solnit describes this well in A Field Guide to Getting Lost when she says “Leave the door open for the unknown, the door into the dark. That’s where the most important things come from, where you yourself came from, and where you will go.”

I have a love affair with little indescribables - the meandering paths and chance encounters and surprise coastal weekends - those things that are beautiful and, well, indescribable in their way of brightening your senses and making you really notice the path you're on. Like any love affair, they don't come along through pursuit. They present. Unexpectedly. Breathlessly.

Perhaps this is why I so enjoy cooking with new ingredients and re-imagining flavors in unexpected ways. I'm always looking for herbs, flowers, spices, and produce that I've never seen before; hoping to be able to capture that moment of surprise and intrigue from a diner. Whether it's the grassy flavor of a Californian olive oil lacing a cake or the scent of orange water on your salad, these subtle details are the ones that make you notice and slow down. They're the ones that make you question what you're experiencing, rather than just shoveling it down.

5 varieties of heirloom apples from the farm with coriander, a little brown sugar, lemon juice, flour, and a pinch of salt. Later topped with an oat streusel and baked for breakfast.

A "mise en place" of sorts

The photos in this post are from Oz Farm, an organic apple farm just north of Point Arena in Mendocino County, California. I found myself there after a series of interconnected events led to me agree to help a new friend feed everyone at his birthday weekend celebration. The entire weekend was somewhat of an unexpected indescribable special thing - you know the type - with interesting people, much laughter, and approximately 947 million stars dabbed across the sky; the milky way cutting a rainbow through it all.

With this theme in mind, here are some "surprise elements" I used while on the farm:

  • Coriander: inspired by Heidi Swanson, I've begun sprinkling ground coriander in my fruit dishes. Especially perfect in stone fruit or berry salads, it lends a complex and earthy citrus note. Despite having tasted coriander thousands of times in savoury dishes, it still tastes totally new to me once combined with something sweet. Just don't confuse it with cumin...
  • Lemon Balm: Also known as Bee Balm, Lemon Balm is a lemony mint (more lemon than mint) with a delicate flavor. It goes well in fruit salads as well, and can also be added to teas and juices (or cocktails!). I've also infused it into heavy whipping cream for panna cotta - it's excellent with berries. I found lemon balm growing all over the Oz Farm property. Plant some in your backyard!
  • Olive oil: My favorite budget-friendly olive oil is Corto. I only buy olive oil from California (it's just so much better) and this is my favorite I've found in terms of diversity. It works especially well in sweets because it lacks the peppery, bitter zing of some other olive oils.

I recognize that most of our life is not composed of these special flavors or moments or feelings. How could it be? Our routines and patterns and habits make the little indescribables that much more special when they happen, because they break us from the myopic vision we've had of the path below our feet and hint at a bigger, wilder world of exploration. Cheers to embracing that feeling when it happens.