A little R&R for the weekend


There are few cooking shows I watch and think “I could do that,” but Ina Garten, the Barefoot Contessa, keeps her approach to food simple and elegant. It makes it seem doable for at-home cooks like me.

On a recent episode, she made a rum raisin rice pudding. In her recipe, Garten uses basmati rice and half-and-half, but all I had in my cupboard was arborio that I had purchased with the intention of making white truffle risotto. Arborio is a short-grain Italian rice that is used for creamy rice dishes because of its absorbency. Because it’s a short-grain rice, I only needed four cups of milk instead of the five cups her recipe used. I also opted for vanilla soy milk since I don’t drink regular milk, and it worked well.

The last time I used rum in a recipe the flavor was too strong. I worried about it with this pudding and, after tasting the finished product while it was still warm, felt like I had used too much. However, after refrigerating it overnight, the flavors came together and the rum wasn’t as pronounced. If I make this again and plan to eat it warm, I won’t toss in the rum that doesn’t get soaked up by the raisins because it would overpower the other flavors.

Sometimes it’s nice to have something sweet and simple in the fridge. This rice pudding definitely fits the bill.

3/4 cup raisins
2 tablespoons dark rum
3/4 cup arborio rice
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 cups soy milk, whole milk or half-and-half
1/2 cup sugar
1 large egg, beaten
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

In a small bowl, combine the raisins and rum. Set aside.

Combine the rice and salt with 1 1/2 cups water in a medium heavy-bottomed stainless steel saucepan. Bring it to a boil, stir once, and simmer, covered, on the lowest heat for 8 to 9 minutes, until most of the water is absorbed. (If your stove is very hot, pull the pan halfway off the burner.)

Stir in 4 cups of soy milk and sugar and bring to a boil. Simmer uncovered for 25 minutes, until the rice is very soft. Stir often, particularly toward the end. Slowly stir in the beaten egg and continue to cook for 1 minute. Off the heat, add the vanilla and the raisins with any remaining rum. Stir well. Pour into a bowl, and place a piece of plastic wrap directly on top of the pudding to prevent a skin from forming. Serve warm or chilled.

A taste of Tahiti

Until Saturday, I had never attempted to make ice cream. Every recipe I’d ever seen required an ice cream maker, and I never felt that was worth the investment. When I turned on the Food Network on Saturday morning, Giada De Laurentiis was doing a show on foods inspired by her Tahitian vacation. One of the things she was making was Tahitian Ice Cream. Her recipe didn’t require an ice cream maker, so I decided to try it.

The process of making the ice cream was a lot simpler and quicker than I had anticipated. Once the cream is whipped to the proper consistency, just mix in the rest of the ingredients, put it in the dish and freeze it.

Toasting the coconut proved to be more difficult. The first time I tried toasting it in the oven, as Giada’s recipe instructed, it burned. I checked it and stirred it after four minutes and put it in for another two, but it was completely black after those two minutes. The second time I tried doing it in a pan and pulled it off the burner when it turned golden brown, but I didn’t consider that it would keep cooking in the pan after I took it off the burner. It burned again. The third time I watched it more carefully and took it off the burner when it was light brown. It cooked until it was golden brown. Third time’s a charm.

The recipe calls for light rum, but all I had was dark rum, so the flavor dominated the ice cream. Next time I’ll reduce the amount of dark rum or use light rum, as the recipe says. The consistency was not as thick as store-bought ice cream, but it was still good. The toasted coconut added a nice contrast to the texture of the ice cream. I bet this would also be good served with fresh pineapple as a topping.

1 teaspoon gelatin
1 vanilla bean, preferably Tahitian
2 cups heavy whipping cream, chilled
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup coconut milk
1/2 cup light rum
1/2 cup toasted coconut, see Cook’s Notes

Place 1/2 cup water in a small saucepan. Sprinkle the gelatin over the water and allow softening, about 2 minutes. Cut the vanilla bean in half lengthwise and scrape the seeds into the water mixture using a paring knife. Add the empty vanilla pods. Stir the water mixture over medium heat until the gelatin has dissolved. Set aside to cool slightly. Remove and discard the vanilla pods.

Beat the cream until thick using an electric hand mixer in a medium bowl. Add the sugar and continue to beat until the cream holds soft peaks. Add the water mixture, coconut milk and rum. Beat until thick and light.

Pour the mixture into an 8-by-8-inch glass baking dish. Freeze until the mixture is the texture of soft-serve ice cream, about 2 1/2 hours.

Scoop the mixture into small glasses using an ice cream scoop. Garnish with toasted coconut and serve. Freeze any unused ice cream in an airtight container.

Cook’s note: To toast coconut, place sweetened or unsweetened, shredded or flaked coconut in a single layer in a small frying pan over medium heat. Stir the coconut every couple minutes. Remove from heat when it is just starting to turn light brown. If you leave it in the pan, watch the coconut and continue to stir it until golden brown.

If freezing the ice cream for longer than 2 1/2 hours, allow the ice cream to stand at room temperature until softened, about 30 minutes before serving. Whisk the ice cream until smooth and serve.