Coconut Nutmeg Pudding

The apartment lifestyle is peculiar. I'm surrounded by people, dozens of people, but we all are strangers to one another. On the rare occasion we pass in the hallway on our way to here or there, a nod of acknowledgment is often given, but seldom a word is spoken. It astounds me how it's possible to share a wall with another person for months without quite knowing who lives on the other side.

If anything, I'd like to apologize to the person who has to listen to me watch Game of Thrones well into the night hours.

My windows overlook the balconies of another apartment building. Though I may not know my own neighbors, I feel I've gotten to know a little bit about my neighbors across the way—a small peek into their lives from the view on the balcony. On the third floor, there is a tall man who steps out for a smoke each morning, mug of coffee in hand. Leaning against the railing, he blows his cigarette smoke into the wind, curiously never taking a sip of the drink he brought with him.

A man on the second floor leaves his blinds open late into the evening. Though I've never seen his face, I can see the twinkling of his television through the window as he settles into another night of watching ESPN.

A woman on the first floor fills her balcony with plants. Green leaves dangle from the ceiling, just touching the bright, beautiful flowers spilling out of planters on the floor. Each morning before the heat of the day swells in, she can be found with a watering can in hand, tending to her plants. Her garden is a lovely sight to behold. I wonder if she ever wishes her garden could grow larger, sprawling out on the apartment lawn. I know I would welcome it.

The last woman is a quiet, tender soul. With a scarf wrapped around her head, she sits outside on a blue beach chair with a book in her hands. She reads for hours, as the sun streaks across the sky, occasionally reaching for the bowl of mixed nuts that rests beside her chair. Periodically I'll join her by sitting out on my own balcony and reading. I wonder what type of books she likes to read. I wonder if she has any to recommend.

Of all of my neighbors, I feel a connection with her the most. Perhaps that's what is most important when you're living in an apartment building, surrounded by people, but living alone. Connection. Though I may never meet these people or shake their hands, the small peak into their lives makes me feel attached to them, bringing me just a little bit closer to the new place I've chosen to call home.

This Coconut Nutmeg Pudding is simple, but elegant. Made with coconut milk and thickened with cornstarch, the pudding has a silky smooth texture. A hint of nutmeg truly rounds out the coconut flavor in an unexpected, delightful manner with a topping of toasted coconut to finish off the pudding. Served warm or chilled, this pudding is comfort food at its finest.

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Coconut Nutmeg Pudding

Yields 4 servings

13.5 ounces (1 can) coconut milk
1/2 cup almond milk (or regular milk)
3 tablespoons cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Toasted coconut flakes, topping (optional)

In a large saucepan, bring the coconut milk and almond milk to a simmer over medium heat. Whisk in the cornstarch and nutmeg, stirring constantly until the milk is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon, about 5-6 minutes. Remove from heat and run the pudding through a fine mesh strainer to remove any lumps. Stir in the vanilla extract.

Divide evenly between 4 serving dishes, sprinkle on toasted coconut, and serve warm (or chill pudding in an airtight container for 3-4 hours and serve cold).