The changing of the seasons is always an uncertain time in weather and in food. Lately, I fear the former simply is incapable of making up its mind. Like a Katy Perry song, one day the weather can be warm and sunny, swelling with new life, and the next it can be dark and damp, cutting with a miserable wind. This last week the mornings have been so gloomy, one look towards the window and I am apt to pull the covers over my head and go back to sleep. Yet, as soon as I get to work in the afternoons, the weather perks up, the sun shines, and the wind disappears.
It's just not fair.
Until the erratic weather eases into a regular pattern, it seems my attempts at menu planning won't either. When the weather feels like spring, all I want to eat is fruit and greens and cold cereal. Light foods are welcome (as well as the occasional bowl of chocolate ice cream). But when the weather turns for the worst, I cling to winter's casseroles and hearty filling soups. Cream and butter become most desirable (though my waistline may not agree).
It's a ridiculous dilemma, but nevertheless one I run into when filling the pantry from the supermarket.
This week, however, I tried to beat Mother Nature at her own game with a little bowl of rice pudding. It's an innocuous dessert, but one that can be enjoyed warm or cold, perfect for when the weather—and I—cannot make up its mind. For a twist, I sprinkled a little sugar on top and bruleed it until golden. It's a simple way to take a classic dessert and turn it something truly special.
When eating this by the spoonful, I like to imagine that just once I beat Mother Nature at her own game.
This Arborio Rice Pudding is sweet, creamy, and comforting. I used Arborio rice instead of white rice because Arborio rice maintains a great firmness and creaminess (as in risotto). I bruleed the top like creme brulee to add a fun and caramelized flavor to the overall pudding. Adding fruit or a sprinkling of cinnamon makes this rice pudding easy to customize to precisely your tastes.
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Arborio Rice Pudding
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen
Yields 4 servings
1/2 cup Arborio rice (not traditional white rice)
4 cups whole milk
1/3 cup sugar, plus extra for topping
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
Fresh fruit, optional
In a large saucepan, bring the Arborio rice, milk, and 1/4 cup sugar to a boil. Turn down the heat to medium-low and simmer for 30-40 minutes, or until rice is tender and pudding has reached desired thickness. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla extract and fresh fruit, if desired.
Pudding may be served warm or chilled.
Just before serving, place pudding into heat-resistant serving dishes. Sprinkle 2-3 teaspoons sugar on top of each serving and, using a kitchen torch, brulee the topping until golden (not burnt!). Alternatively, place oven on broil and, with the rack on the highest notch, broil the sugar topping until just golden. Watch very closely!