Monday, April 23, 2012

Strawberry Rice Pudding with Orange and Ginger

I was standing in my backyard a few nights ago firing up my grill for dinner.  It had been a beautiful summer-like day.  The kind that, had I not had errands to run, I would have spent on the beach with my little one.  As I was standing there with the late afternoon sun was shining right on me, I closed my eyes and let the sun's heat warm my face.  I was surrounded by my thriving gardens.  In the breeze was the heady aroma of the citrus blossoms.  And at that moment I realized that I was truly in love with living here in Southern California. 

There are many things to love about living here.  The beautiful beaches, the temperate climate, the almost year-round sunshine.  My drive from town to town takes me through fields bursting with fruits and vegetables thanks to the fantastic soil and perfect temperatures.  I love being able to see where the food that my family eats comes from.  And the ease at which I can grow my own food right in my backyard amazes me.  It practically grows all by itself.  It's truly a little piece of heaven here on Earth.

Right now many of those fields that I drive past are covered in strawberries.  It's amazing to see how quickly they grow here and to watch their harvest.  The workers spend all day, the sun beating down on them, sprinting up and down the rows with full flats of berries.  It's an impressive sight.

It just so happens that on the same day that I had my epiphany about loving my newly adopted state, I had picked up a half flat of strawberries from a local farm.  The variety is called sea scape and they are a super sweet little berry perfect for eating right from the container.  My boys gobbled up several before we even got them into the car.  The ones we didn't eat right away became a jar of jam paired with lime and a rich rice pudding with orange and ginger.  The jam is quite tasty, but the rice pudding is nothing short of wonderful.  Sweet and creamy with the slightest hint of warmth from the ginger and tang of the orange, it's my new favorite way to use strawberries.

Strawberry Rice Pudding with Orange and Ginger
Adapted from La Tartine Gourmande.  Serves 4

1 tsp orange zest
1/3 to 1/2 cup sugar (depends on the sweetness of your berries, taste one first!)
2 slices of peeled ginger about the size of a quarter and 1/4 inch thick
1/8 cup water
1 1/4 cups chopped strawberries (about 1/2 pint)
1 tbs orange juice
1/2 cup short grain rice (such as arborio or canaroli), rinsed until the water runs clear
2 cups low-fat milk

additional strawberries for slicing

In a small pot, bring the orange zest, water, ginger and sugar to a boil.  Add the strawberries and orange juice and simmer for 15 minutes.  Remove from heat.

In the meantime, in a medium pot heat the milk to a simmer.  Add the rice and stir.  Continue to simmer the milk and rice mixture, stirring often to prevent the milk from scorching on the bottom of the pan.  After about 20-25 minutes the rice will have absorbed most of the milk and the mixture will have become quite thick.  Remove the ginger slices from the strawberry mixture and discard.  Pour the remaining mixture into the pot with the rice and milk and stir.  Continue stirring with the mixture at a simmer until the liquid has been absorbed and the rice is cooked through, another 5 minutes.  Let cool slightly.

You can serve the pudding warm or you can cool it in the refrigerator and serve it cold.  Top with additional sliced strawberries.

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