I have to admit that I haven’t done any Christmas baking this yet. And it probably won’t happen until Christmas. Wait, that’s not true. There will be my mom’s Swedish cinnamon buns on Christmas Day and snickerdoodles over the weekend. Usually I am the poster child for Santa’s bakery, if there ever was one. I’ll be cooking Christmas dinner (well late lunch for us) and will be making a sticky toffee pudding cake (F&W Dec 15 issue). Probably because I like saying sticky toffee pudding with the voice of Kermit The Frog or Gollum.
I did bake a few things despite my lack of holiday baking. Mostly cakes and pies that were devoured as fast as they were coming out of the oven. Almost. During our last workshop a couple of weeks ago, it seemed that I could not turn galettes fast enough for dessert for the attendees! I’ve had a hard time resisting fall and winter fruits at the market. Apples, seckel and forelle pears, kumquats, cranberries. They all ended in my basket at some point.
It’s no secret that I do love making (and eating) tarts. I grew up watching my grandmother making loads of them on a regular basis and even more around Christmas time. Her tart fillings were simple and straightforward, always letting the fruit take center stage. Sometimes, there was a supporting actor such as a custard base, lemon curd or frangipane. If I had to choose which one I favor the most, I honestly could not. I love the pillowy softness of a vanilla custard, the acidulous tickle of a lemon curd and the tantalizing taste of an almond filling.
Pears and frangipane go hand in hand like good company and a good meal. They never outplay each other. A classic combination that everyone in my family enjoys. A bit of vanilla bean added to the frangipane never hurts either.
I hope the holidays treat you well and are a source of comforting meals with friends and family.
It’s never easy to find balance this time of year but a slice of pear frangipane tart and a glass of wine might just do that!
Thank you to everyone who has inquired about the workshop in Charleston. Yes, it is sold out but we do have a waitlist if you are interested. You can send me an email at helenedujardinphoto[at]gmail[dot com]. It’s been a busy May with family here and a busy June but I am ready for summer cooking and summer playing!
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…
It’s been a while since I visited my own blog, let alone write anything on this page. What can I say? I gave myself an unintentional break by enjoying the most of summer off line. There has been much cooking and photographing but not much free time to sit down and blog about it all. With longer days and gorgeous evenings here, there have been many impromptu dinners al fresco with friends, long chats with the husband in the evening and one thing leading to another…I felt a little tug at giving myself a little break from blogging. With Instagram, Twitter and Facebook so much part of our daily lives, it’s easy to rely on those to keep in touch with everyone out there.
Truth is, I miss you guys. If you are still around. I miss being here and letting my thoughts take shape through the keyboard. Work is busy and can take the fun out of a few hours spent editing and sharing recipes and pictures. Balance. Always something to strive for. Nothing makes me happier than cooking a bunch on the weekend and photographing dishes for a future post and then the routine sets in and that post takes a back seat. One week, two weeks and soon turns into almost three months…
Needless to say, I have a whole bunch of recipes and photos to share with you!
Weekly visit to the amazing farmers market we have here in Birmingham often result in simple yet delectable recipes and musings in the kitchen.
Our favorite snack on the weekend early this summer was market fresh carrots, briefly roasted served with creme fraiche and a good sprinkle of za’atar. Our current favorite dessert is roasted plum with local honey and a dollop of soft whipped cream.
Feels like Summer is officially here in the South. Don’t let the calendar fool you! I spent my birthday last week in the company of the guy I call my surrogate brother, chef John Ondo, and a group of complete strangers on the beach while doing a food photography and cooking workshop. Well, we were strangers to each other for about five minutes. Nothing like a few nibbles he had prepared for us and a glass of wine to break down the ice and make everyone share a good laugh and a good story.
The workshop was a huge success in my book. Between photo assignments and down times, everyone walked away with a different perspective on their own photography and cooking. We ate well, enjoyed the sunshine and the heat and welcomed the rain and lower temperatures one day. It gave me the opportunity to show students why shooting in the rain always gave me the greatest pleasure. The electricity in the light, the potential for pushing your camera settings and re-programming your brain to find the unexpected.
I walked away with new friends, new connections, plans for future workshops that leave me with a skip and a hop in my step. Always something that keeps pushing me forward. On a side note, we have a couple of spots open for the workshop I am doing in Atlanta in a couple of weeks! Details HERE.
Coming back from workshops is always tricky. Let’s face it, they require a lot of planning and "on" time. It takes a few naps and a few long nights to get my internal clock re-adjusted. In those circumstances I always rely on the food on my plate to give me the sustenance needed to re-enter reality.
With the heat, my palate craves the fresh flavors of sweet fruits. A meal always end with something sweet, usually a square of chocolate or fruit compote on yogurt in the winter and big fruit salads in the summer. Right now, the farmers market abounds with local bright red strawberries. We’ve been adding them to everything, including green salads actually.
The combination of honeydew melon and strawberries is always a winning one for us. We just sliced a bunch for dessert and sprinkled our plates with lemon juice, lemon rubbed sugar and fresh mint. Clean, light and super refreshing. The kind of desserts that helps my body and mind feel reset. It’s really so easy to prepare and always a hit with our friends.
Update: While the one day workshops in Auckland, New Zealand are SOLD OUT, there are still spots available for the 2 day workshops I am teaching in Rotorua, New Zealand. (more information HERE)
This winter in Alabama has been quite different than all other winters I have spent in the South so far. Colder and lingering on. After the ice and snow that paralysed the Southern states just a couple of weeks ago, we had another snow episode just last week. This one was quite different though. It snowed on warmer grounds for a few hours and by 10pm, our streets were covered with the most beautiful blanket of fluffy snow. By 10am the next morning, it was all gone.
The evening it was snowing, one big snowflake at a time, I took the old pup and the camera and ventured outside. I was sure I’d be the only one out there. But, in that perfect quietness that happens after a snow fall, where all sounds become muted, where you feel that almost undefinable peace in your soul, I started hearing soft voices emerging all around me. Within minutes, our street became alive with neighbors, kids and dogs. Our neighborhood is full of creatives and I was not surprised to see many polaroids, brownie and diana cameras as well as high tech ones and cell phones. You could tell we don’t see snow very often! I was among them snapping away, instagramming and sending shots to family and friends.
As I could hear my feet onto the freshly fallen powder my mind wandered… Yep. While others were pondering snow angels at almost midnight, I was thinking about another kind of frozen fun. The edible kind. I started thinking about silky smooth whipped cream dessert, ice creams, snow cones, slushies, frozen drinks and granitas.
The next day after work, I picked up a whole bunch of blood oranges to make granita. I added a bit of tequila, quite a bit of lime juice and a tad bit of salt and pink pepper flakes for a little kick. The beauty of this granita is that you can make it without the alcohol for a kid friendly treat or take it a step further and turn it into a frozen margarita for an adult cocktail between friends. I admit, I also really wanted to try the new citrus juicer attachment on the new food processor the folks at Magimix by Robot-Coupe had sent me over Christmas. That thing is impressive. No more arm feeling like it’s about to fall off after juicing many pounds of citrus for juices, cakes and marmalades. I am addicted.
There’s something about blood oranges that make me eat them non stop when they are in season while I don’t really bother with regular ones any other time. They are so much more fragrant, beautiful to look at and marry themselves equally well with lots of savorydishes.
Yes, I am a sucker for cold desserts on cold days. Makes me rush to the fireplace. There’s no logic to my logic except that it was delicious and well worth the bit of prep involved.
Ok, I confess, I still enjoyed it all weekend long even with the temperature coming back up in higher ranges. Blood oranges just make me swoon.
I don’t think I could have enjoyed making these Apple Cinnamon And Walnut Cakes more than this weekend. Rainy and grey weather, still getting over a bad cold and terrible news about someone I loved just made me head out to the kitchen and cook, bake, stir and chop. I also went for a long run and ran until my lungs were about to explode. I needed to feel life in me. A tangible happenstance of something as fundamental as taking a breath in and letting a breath out. I had to get into the kitchen, open a cookbook and start a methodological way of going about my day.
Gather ingredients. Follow directions. Measure and stir. Step one would sway me one way. Step two another. I did not want to think. I did not want to guess. I just wanted comfort. Comfort in making a cake similar to the one my grandmother would make when I was little. Comfort in bringing extra cakes to the neighbors on Sunday morning.
Life has funny ways indeed. And for a few hours, I surrendered. I was too tired from thinking, speculating, wondering, being sad, being mad and feeling like a piece of my life of the past thirteen years had been wrongfully taken from me. When someone screams, I get quiet. When someone gets mad, I smirk. When someone decides to check out, deliberately, I check in. I know no other way to deal with loss and grief. And I bake. Or cook.
If you read food blogs, such as this one, I am pretty much reassured that you do the same thing when blue. So I am hoping that you understand when my dealing with uncomfortable moments, makes me reach for the comfort of a soft cake, filled with aromas of apples and cinnamon, the tender crunch of walnuts and crumbs sticking to your fingers. Comforting scents and textures. Like a warm blanket on a cold and rainy day. These cakes will cure many a broken heart, will stop many a falling tear and will become the kindest balm for your soul.
Take my word for it. You can find comfort in taking familiar recipes, childhood recipes, family-hand-me-down recipes and make them yours. I just feel better for reconnecting to the only normalcy I know. Being in the kitchen and making food for the people I love. In memory or not.
This post was written with one single person in mind. Here is to you Tim… With all my love and thirteen years of an honest and seamless friendship between a man and a woman who were just trying to make sense of this life we are in. And for the many cakes I made you sample while I was pastry chef-ing at Mistral’s back in the days… Miss you Mischief. Your Misconduct.
It’s been a long time coming and took a little bit of juggling and re-adjusting positions and schedules but my family is here. My parents, my brother, his wife and my two nieces arrived late Thursday night after a long day of traveling. It’s been nothing but laughter and catching up since then. And it feels good. Real good.. We get to spend a Christmas and New Year’s Eve together. The first time in many many years.
There was no Birmingham in our future when we started planning this family vacation last year. There was no new position in my photography career, no new house, no old house full of moving boxes. No being long distance relationship for me and Bill thrown in the mix. Needless to say, it has taking everyone a lot of giving in, giving up, selflessness to make it happen and have everyone feel good.
That’s my family. Tight. Together. Tighter after the last year mourning so many close loved ones in short periods of time. Tragedy struck us hard many times over the years. But we came out stronger. We came out better and with such an expanded amount of love and "do – live – go" attitude. I know they give me strength.
I had my "this is so worth it" moment this morning when Bill and I took the dogs for a jog on the beach. After the horrendous week that we all felt as a nation and community, sharing the sorrows of so may families, I could not wait to hug mine. My nieces, so beautiful, so young and innocent. Their parents, their fears as caretakers and educators. My parents, for the many many good things and tough lessons they have brought us over the years.
The next few days will be all about cooking together for Christmas, hanging out and just be together. We have decided to mix American and French traditions for Christmas dinner and I am looking forward to breaking into the foie gras and at the same time have my nieces have their first go at sweet potato casserole. One thing for sure, there will be Buche De Noel. And Spiced Poached Pears with Mascarpone Cream. And definitely my grandmother’s Riz au Lait, or rice pudding will be made over the next few days.
I hope you all have a wonderful holiday season, filled with good cheers, lots of love and great food. Keep up with traditions or make new ones but most importantly, take care of yourself.
We have been stocking on the bounty of Spring produce left and right lately. Strawberries, peas, rhubarb,ronde de Nice, baby Vidalias, etc… The farmers market is in full swing and my mind is buzzing with photographs to take of all this beauty.
It was torture however these past two weeks to cook for two and only one could eat. Yes, I had mild complications from the tooth extraction and for two weeks I was barely able to finish a bowl of soup. I would make Bill a meal and send mine through the blender. Eating was problematic so I would set out a my soup and eat a few spoonfuls at a time throughout the day.
Last Sunday I was finally able to eat my first solid meal. Little bites at a time. I have nothing against soups, I love them, and I became quite creative with mine but I am a chewer so it was getting old! Since we had friends coming over for dinner that Monday and my brain started going crazy happy on the meal planning!
I spent the day in the kitchen chopping, cooking, tasting, anticipating like a child the moment when we would all sit down and share a meal. A good meal. Imperfect, bountiful, mismatched, seasonal. With friends who made me laugh until I was about to burst.
I had prepared dessert thinking we’d be too full for it but I had forgotten about the crew at the table. Gourmands, epicureans,bon vivants. They would not pass on dessert. Especially Rhubarb and Strawberry Crisp. True Summer in a cup. I served them with a creme fraiche ice cream I must make again and blog about soon. Unfortunately there was none left for the photoshoot. That good.
We had the leftover crisps with a little heavy cream whisked just until it gets thick, no whipped and it was just as perfect. Every bit of sunshine on a spoon.
Rhubarb & Strawberry Crisps:
Makes enough for 6 to 8 depending on your ramekins
For the topping:
1 cup sugar, divided (1/2 and 1/2)
1/2 cup all purpose flour or gluten free flour of your choice (I used millet flour here)
1/2 cup gluten free oats or quinoa flakes
1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
zest of one lemon
1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
pinch of salt
6 tablespoons cold unsalted butter
For the filling:
juice of one lemon
3 cups chopped rhubarb
2 cups chopped strawberries
3 tablespoons cornstarch
2 teaspoons kirsch or brandy
Crème fraîche, thick cream or ice cream, to serve with (if desired)
Preheat the oven to 350F and position a rack in the middle. Lightly butter the inside of 6-8 ramekins and place them on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
In a medium bowl, stir together 1/2 cup of the sugar, flour, oats, brown sugar, lemon zest, salt and the cardamom. Add the butter and work it into the flour mixture with your fingertips until crumbly. Cover the cover and refrigerate while you prepare the filling.
In a large bowl, stir together the remaining 1/2 cup sugar and lemon juice with the chopped rhubarb and strawberries. Add the cornstarch and liqueur and fold well with a wooden spatula.
Divide the fruit mixture in between the prepared ramekins. Divide the crisps topping equally over each portion. Bake for about 35 to 40 minutes, until the filling is bubbly and the topping is browned. Top each crisp with a dollop of crème fraîche, thick cream of ice cream if desired.
Came back from Utah last night and it’s been a day of catching up. Running around. Grocery shopping. Laundry doing. And of course playing with Bill and snuggling with the pups…Wait! Sorry. It’s the other way around! Yep, today feels completely discombobulated.
I have had to jump right into work mode this morning and just cannot wait to cozy up on the couch tonight and look through all the pics I took this past week in Utah during the Plate To Pixel Book Tour Workshop and the three days spent at Evo in Park City. I miss everything about last week already, including the lack of humidity and the mild temperatures.
If you knew the (good) fire burning in my guts right now about everything seen, accomplished, witnessed, made part of, shared with, taught, learned about. Projects set in motion, stories brought to fruition, friendships and connections created. Kuddos to Rachael and Jyl, the founders of Evo for another smashingly well executed conference. I can’t wait to share more of it with you later this week.
Part of all these good all around feelings started right before Utah when I cooked my first recipe out of my friend Matt Armendariz first and freshly released cookbook "On A Stick". I’d only had time to make a couple of recipes from it but took his book with me on the plane and read from first to last page. In the thick of Summer, his book could not have come out at a better time!
The weather sure did not get any milder while I was gone and tonight we got right back into our routine of grilling as much as possible instead of turning the stove or the oven on. We have come to grill everything, even fruits. Stone fruits specifically. Juicy, fragrant, perfectly textured for a little fire action.
I realized a few days before hopping on the plane last week that I had gone slightly overboard with the apricots and plums. To use them up, I served a bunch simply cut up with some fresh whipped cream. A little riff off the idea of peaches and cream. And while this was simple and satisfying, there was a little depth of flavor and texture missing.
This is when I went ahead and grilled a bunch, following Matt’s direction for Grilled Fruit Skewers and served some over vanilla ice cream. I pureed the rest until smooth and made these Apricot & Honey Panna Cotta. They are the perfect blend of smooth and creamy with a touch of refreshing fruity acidity from the apricots at the bottom.
A large handful of velvet apricots and plums found its fate much like a dish gets concocted at times. A pinch of this, a dash of that…I was adapting Matt Armendariz’s recipe for Chinese Five Spice Chicken Skewers from his book "On a Stick" to use with fresh tuna when the velvet apricot I was munching on flew out of my hand and landed on a little bit of five spice sprinkled inadvertently on the counter top. I wondered what the combination of fragrances would be like and fell in love at first bite.
Before I knew it, I was skewering pieces of five spice marinated tuna and velvet apricots and placing them over a hot grill. The resulting dish was the perfect light dinner bite we were craving with such hot weather. Sweet, sour and savory. Hints of anise, lemongrass, cumin, cinnamon bringing fish and fruit together perfectly.
I love how the book incorporates super simple to fancier recipes without being difficult or long in preparation. Recipes such as "Ground Shrimp on Sugarcane" and "S’Mores" are especially tempting to me. Others like the "Spaghetti and Meatballs" or "Cinnamon Rolls" on a stick may seem brilliant or crazy to some folks but they turned out to be quite the conversation piece at our latest neighborhood cookout. Always a plus if you ask me.
However, these are far and few between and if you look closely, you’ll see that Matt took known dishes and reworked them to work on skewers of all kinds. From appetizers to desserts, complete with dips and sauces. Fun. Unpretentious. Entertaining. Beautifully styled by Adam Pearson and photographed by Matt himself. Yes, I consider both of them my friends and mentors and that makes this book that much more fun for me to use.
I am seeing many more dinners and parties in our future incorporating recipes and ideas from Matt’s book. That makes me beam with pride. Matt is the single most positive person I have ever met in my life and I am constantly learning and inspired by him. This book is an clearly an extension of his fun and delicious side…!
Apricots & Honey Panna Cotta:
For the apricots:
For the panna cotta:
1/4 cup water
1 tablespoon powdered gelatin (2 sheets gelatin)
2 cups heavy cream
1/4 cup honey
1 cup full fat buttermilk
Directions: Prepare the apricots:
Cut the apricots in half and remove the pit. Brush lightly with olive oil and grill over hot coals until tender (about 3-4 minutes on each side). Let cool and puree until smooth in a food processor. Divide the mixture between 6 glasses.
Prepare the panna cotta:
Place the water in small bowl and sprinkle the gelatin over it. Reserve.
In a large heavy bottomed saucepan placed over medium heat, bring the heavy cream and honey to a simmer. When the cream is hot, remove from the heat and whisk in the reserved gelatin until it is completely dissolved. Add the buttermilk and whisk until well blended.
Divide the mixture on top of the apricot puree. Let stand at room temperature for 20 minutes and then refrigerate for at least 4 hours before serving to let the cream set properly.
Chinese Five Spice Tuna and Stone Fruit Skewers, adapted from Matt Armendariz’s On A Stick:
12 skewers (bamboo or metal)
1 tablespoon Chinese five spice powder
1/2 tablespoon honey
1/2 tablespoon minced lemongrass
1/2 tablespoon sesame oil
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1/4 cup olive oil
1 pound fresh tuna, cut into large pieces
3 velvet apricots, quartered
3 plums, quartered
Combine all the marinade ingredients together in a small bowl and whisk until smooth. Place the tuna pieces and fruit quarters in a shallow dish and add the marinade. Make sure to coat all the pieces well with the marinade. Refrigerate for an hour, turning the tuna pieces halfway through the process.
Meanwhile soak the skewers if using bamboo ones so they don’t burn (I used metal) in water for at least 30 minutes. Heat the grill to medium high.
Remove the tuna and fruit from the refrigerator and thread onto the skewers, alternating pieces as much as possible. Grill, about 3-4 minutes per side for medium tuna or less for rare. Serve with fresh arugula if desired.
Let’s start with the winner of the Chefs Catalog giveaway, shall we? Congratulations to "misreneer"! Send me your address at mytartelette[at]gmail[dot]com and we’ll get that package on its way to you!
At the end of the Food Photography workshop I taught during Evo 10 in Park City Utah, a new blogger came to me and asked if I ever got tired and cranky from blogging. I tried my best to keep my eyes from popping like UFOs while keeping my enthused answer to normal decibel level. You guessed it, my answer was "Nooooo! Heck no!" Adding that if anything I get cranky not being able to post and not from having to post.
Like the blogger next to you, we both blogged differently. Yet, we both took immense pleasure in what we did. This space is true comfort for me. The food, the feelings, the people, your visits. It’s all pure joy. What I write, photograph, cook or bake. It’s authentic. It’s life with us. It’s not what we expected or wished for sometimes but it is what we have and what we live. It’s ours. It’s also the space I keep free of insurance and bank talks or the dozens of work emails imploding the inbox. It’s a journal.
A space I define and refine constantly as I define and refine what I do and who I am. It’s authentic. It’s got joys, tears, friends, family. That’s enough emotions not to throw my mortgage into the mix. Yes. We blogged differently but for the same reason. Because we felt comfortable to be ourselves and tell of ourselves in that space we created.
I like slipping into the comfort of this page late at night when the house is asleep. It’s like digging my spoon into that last bite of rice pudding and feeling at peace with all sorts of emotions and feelings. I also let my thoughts be dark and grey. I let myself get upset and weary before I can be ok again. Coming here forces me to put value and words to those emotions and decide which ones are worth sweating over and which ones are better off letting roll off my back.
As you and I get closer and closer to write and read post #700 I realize that in the end you may read about the small stuff, the little things, the nostalgia and that’s because they make me who I am and give me what I see.
As I was packing for Utah and Colorado a couple of weeks ago (darn summer- stop flying by so fast!), I was trying to use up produce that I knew B. would not touch while I’d be gone. As I mentioned before, cooking is not his things, let alone baking. Eating is. I started thinking about desserts that would evoke comfort for him. The kind he’d want to grab after a long day working outside in the hear followed by a few hours of teaching in the evening. Alright, I confess: desserts that would also make him miss be a little bit…eheheh!
I made shortcakes, filled a container of sliced strawberries and whipped up some cream to go along. He shared those with the neighbors. I made his favorite Southern banana pudding from scratch complete with wafers and chopped praline. He invited his parents over to dig through it (praise from my mother-in-law…hallelujah!). Lastly I made my grandmother’s rice pudding and we shared some that morning before my flight. Every time I looked at the pictures on my laptop, I felt instantly closer to home. The home in our hearts, not my house or the space we live in. That’s changeable. Comfort is where your heart is first.
One thing my grandma knew was rice pudding. Riz au lait. One thing I know very well is to take her recipe and run with it as the season change or as my emotions flutter. Sometimes I change the spice, from vanilla to chai. Sometimes I take liberties with the flavors and add a slash of rum or a sprinkle of brown sugar. Other times I’ll hide some salted butter caramel right in the middle, or some spiced chocolate ganache. The name may not be all that exciting but the possibilities are closer to sexy than you might think.
This time, I took advantage of a small basket of plums I had just purchased at the farmers market. Tiny, tart and full of flavor. I simply roasted them for a short period of time with a sprinkle of vanilla sugar. For the rice, I used a flattened rice from India that I got while visiting my dear friend Bina. I like this one a lot because it cooks a bit quicker and you can serve it slightly undercooked (to keep more shape) without having it taste raw. I added a pinch of cardamom to the milk I cooked the rice with and voila….one heck of a creamy and comforting dessert topped with some of the best of the season’s bounty.
Roasted Plums and Creamy Rice Pudding:
For the plums:
1/2 vanilla bean
3 tablespoons sugar (I used sucanat)
pinch of edible lavender
12 small plums, halved and pits removed
For the rice pudding:
1/2 cup (100gr) flattened rice (use arborio if not available)
1 1/2 cups (315ml) whole milk (I used raw)
1/2 cup (60ml) heavy cream
1/4 cup (50gr) sugar
Pinch of salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
chopped pistachios (optional)
Prepare the plums:
Preheat the oven to 400F and position a rack in the middle.
With the tip of a knife, slice the half vanilla bean lengthwise and scrape the seeds into a small dish or ramekin. Add the sugar and mix with your fingertips until the vanilla bean seeds are well distributed.
Place the plums in a baking dish and sprinkle the vanilla sugar and lavender evenly over them. Bake for 20 minutes or until juicy. Let cool.
Prepare the rice pudding:
In a stainer, rinse the rice under cold water for a minute to remove some of its natural starch.
In a medium saucepan set over medium heat, bring the rice, milk, cream, sugar to a simmer. Cook until tender, stirring occasionally for about 20 to 30 minutes. Add the salt and spices, stir briefly and remove from the heat. Let cool for a few minutes and divide the pudding evenly among ramekins. Divide the roasted plums evenly in between the dishes and sprinkle with chopped pistachios if desired.