Arroz con leche (Rice Pudding)

I used to sing this folk song to my kids whenever I’d make this for them.

“Arroz con leche
me quiero casar
con una viudita
de la capital”
 

This comes out very creamy even though I use only 1% milk. I sweeten it with raisins and piloncillo, (pea-lon-SEE- yo), which is brown raw sugar, sold in cones in Mexican groceries. If you can’t find that, substitute about 3 tablespoons of brown sugar. I only use a small cone, but if you like yours sweeter, add more. For me, the cinnamon and vanilla is flavorful enough that less sugar is needed.

My mom used to add walnuts to hers, which I thought was fantastic. I’ve had sublime Indian rice pudding with cardamom, coconut milk and pistachio nuts, so I added this option as well. For a vegan version, use all coconut milk.

Serves 6

1 ½ cups cooked rice. Although white rice is traditional, I like the nutty flavor of brown rice. I cook the rice only with water, a teaspoon of butter, and a sprinkle of salt.

3 cups low fat milk or 2 cups milk and 1 cup coconut milk

1 Tb. vanilla extract

1 ½  tsp. cinnamon powder

¼ tsp. cardamom powder (optional)

1 small cone of piloncillo

¼ cup raisins

1/2  cup chopped walnuts, pecans or unsalted pistachios (optional)

1 stick cinnamon to garnish

Heat milk with vanilla, cinnamon, cardamom, and piloncillo until it starts to bubble around the edges, but not boil. Stir in  raisins and rice. Heat on low for 30 minutes, stirring often so that a skin doesn’t form. The pudding will thicken as it heats. Add the nuts. Let sit until cool. The longer it sits, the more the milk is absorbed by the rice. You may want to add more milk after it has sat awhile. Garnish with a cinnamon stick.

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Jenny’s Lemongrass and Opo Kang

My best friend at work, Jenny, shares her delicious Laotian dishes with me at lunchtime, and shares the recipes as well. She makes this with jasmine rice. I made it with brown rice.

This Laotian lemongrass-scented Kang (soup) is easy to make. The opo squash, also known as bottle squash because of its shape, is mild flavored when young. If you can’t find it in your local produce or Asian market, you can substitute chayote or zucchini. Jenny uses the seeds along with the flesh.

I bought the lemongrass, opo and Thai basil from an Asian market in Oakland. But next summer I’m going to try to grow them. Each stalk of lemongrass can become a new plant. Just save the bottom 4 inches above the bulb and suspend in water with toothpicks. The bulb will develop roots and the plant will grow quickly. I’ve already  planted one in the yard and will harvest it come summer. Thai basil is very fragrant; use just a bit so as not to overwhelm the lemongrass.

You can make this with pork or chicken. I used sustainably raised pork (from Niman Ranch) since I have issues with the environmental damage caused by commercial pig farms. It’s more expensive but you don’t use much in this recipe. If using a chicken breast, slice it thinly and add them with the opo for the last 15 minutes.

Serves 4


6 cups chicken broth Roz’s Jewish Chicken Soup (plus a vegan version)

1 tomato, minced

1/4 pound center-cut boneless pork chop, fat trimmed or chicken breast.

1 stalk lemon grass

1/2 cup rice (I used brown rice)

2 opo squash

Salt to taste

fresh Thai basil leaves

Cut lemon grass into 4 inch pieces, smash with a molcajete (mortar and pestle) or rolling pin on a cutting board to release the scent, then boil in broth with tomato pieces. Cut pork in thin slices and add to broth with rice. Simmer for 30 minutes. Peel the opo and slice into bite sized pieces. Fish out the lemon grass and discard. (you don’t want to bite into one while eating the soup!) Add the opo and cook 15 minutes. Salt to taste. Shred basil and garnish each bowlful.