The heat is on for sure! We've been grilling a lot and making big salads chock full of all the vegetables we can get at the market. The oven is currently not an option I want to have. Gets the house too hot, takes forever to cool off and with longer days and more light, we just want to sit on the patio and enjoy the refreshing evenings as much as possible.
I have not done much baking, and usually it's been on early weekend mornings before it got too warm. Desserts have been lots and lots of fresh fruits and the occasional cookies and ice cream. Not tremendously exciting (well, except for the couple of new ice cream flavors I have been trying to nail), but when summer rolls around, there are always three desserts I tend to put on rotations at the house. Panna Cotta, clafoutis and riz au lait (rice pudding).
Riz au lait is my comfort food. My grandmother used to make it all the time whenever we needed a little TLC. For me it screams "I love you", "Let me comfort you", "make yourself a bowl and come unload what troubles you" or just "hey, things are wonderful, let's celebrate!" It's all that. A gentle hug, a reminder to slow down. The scent of vanilla infused milk just wafting through the house. Something that requires you to pause and stir. Inhale and exhale. To me it is the essence of cooking and sharing. As soon as I make Riz Au Lait, I want to give a bowl to someone.
Granted, it's usually a dessert I make more often in the fall and winter months but chilled rice pudding adds a nice bite and cold creamy smooth feel. I cook the rice with milk and a bit of vanilla, just to the point of the milk being completely absorbed. I let the rice continue soaking in all that lovely goodness until it is cool. It's soft and unctuous without being liquid. The creaminess will reveal itself in the bite, not the look. Once cooled, I top it off with fruit poached in a citrus and honey syrup. Right now, peaches are ripe and gorgeous, but it could well be rhubarb or strawberries, a mix of different berries, etc...
My extra bit of love comes from a couple of lemon verbena stems I add to the syrup. Vanilla, citrus, honey, lemon verbena. My favorites, all surrounding a comforting bowl of rice pudding. Maybe not like Grandma used to make but she would approve nonetheless. I'm pretty sure of that...
Chilled Riz Au Lait with Citrus Honey Poached Peaches:
For the rice pudding:
2/3 cup medium grain white rice
1/2 cup water
3 cups whole milk
1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste
1/4 cup sugar
In a medium saucepan, bring the rice and water to a boil. Reduce heat and bring to a simmer. Add the milk, vanilla bean paste and sugar and cook over medium heat the milk is just about absorbed. Stir off and on, keeping an eye on the milk to prevent it from boiling over.
Remove from the heat, let cool 5 minutes and put a sheet of plastic wrap over the rice for another 10-15 minutes The milk will continue to get absorbed into the rice. The texture won't be as creamy as freshly warmly made rice pudding but that is what we are looking for here. The creaminess will reveal itself in the bite, not the look.
Divide into 4 bowls and let refrigerate until ready to use.
While the rice cools, prepare the peaches.
Citrus Honey Poached Peaches:
2 peaches, halved and pits removed (I left the skin on, but feel free to peel them before you poach them)
1 cup freshly squeezed orange juice (about 2 oranges)
1/4 cup water
1/4 cup honey
2 lemon verbena stems
In a tall saucepan, place the peaches, orange juice, water, honey so that the peaches are submerged in the liquid. Bring to a boil then reduce heat to a simmer. Poach the peaches for about 10-12 minutes. Remove the peaches and lemon verbena from the saucepan and let cool completely. Discard the lemon verbena. Continue to cook the syrup until it has the consistency of honey or syrup.
Let cool slightly. Slice the peaches and divide them on top of the rice pudding bowls. Top with syrup and serve.