In the 'Travel' folder of my favorite bookmarks, I have the Rice to Riches website linked.
To me, travel consists mostly of eating, so it shouldn't surprise anyone that the folder doesn't contain many hotels, cheap flight deals, or online translation helps, but just a slew of restaurant links, bakery websites and promos for a few dream wine vacations (someday). I meant to get to the rice pudding mecca when I was in New York the last time, but it didn't happen.
Well, that's not totally true, I did get there--I walked in and then back out.
I love rice pudding, hot or cold, and I had heard enough buzz from friends about Rice to Riches, that I knew I was going to have to get down to Little Italy and taste for myself; however, when I got there I couldn't bring myself to order. Maybe I should blame the large Lombardi's pizza we had just scarfed down. Perhaps the Katz's pastrami on rye, enjoyed only an hour before the pizza, wasn't quite laid to rest, or I was still experiencing cramping from those oh-so-heavy Upper West Side bagels.
Whatever it was, at that moment , standing in the ultra-modern, one-and-only Rice to Riches, surrounded by people hunched over orange plastic bowls, I knew that it would have to be enjoyed the next time I was in town.
Still, I'm not totally convinced though. To me rice pudding should be something simple, not over the top. It should be slightly perfumed, maybe jazzed up with a handful of currants or toasted coconut.
You know, satisfying and straightforward.
Does Cookies and Cream Rice Pudding with Toasted Buttery Pound Cake sound like this to you? See for yourself; check out the Rice to Riches menu for more wild flavors such as Rum 'n Raisin, Rocky Road and Pecan Pie. It's like they swapped menus with Baskin Robbins or something.
Even now, while battling a serious case of the late-night munchies, these choices don't sound particularly appealing.
I'll tell you what does do it for me in the rice pudding department. A little recipe for traditional Persian rice pudding, delicately flavored with the aromatic rose water and cardamom, adapted from the superb Seductions of Rice by the talented Jeffery Alford & Naomi Duguid. I enjoyed this dessert so much I am wondering if I need ever head south for the Big Apple's famed rice pudding hot spot.
Oh well, I hear they ship. (How appetizing does that sound?) But trust me, simmer a pot of this rose water and cardamom rice pudding on your stove for a few hours and you will never need to leave home.
Satisfying and straightforward, simple and seductive.
Cardamom and Rose Water Rice Pudding
1 cup short-grain rice
4 cups whole milk
2 cups water
¾ cup sugar
3 tablespoons rose water
Seeds from 2 cardamom pods, ground
Pale honey (optional)
Stir in the sugar, the rose water and cardamom and cook, stirring, for another five minutes. Taste and stir in more sugar if you want. Transfer to a serving dish and let cool to room temperature.
If you wish, just before serving drizzle a little honey over the pudding and garnish with chopped pistachios.