I was always the last kid to leave the lunchroom. After the other kids piled up their lunch trays and ran to the playground, I would spoon lime Jell-O into my mouth, sliver by sliver, until it was gone. I think the cafeteria ladies felt bad for me but I didn't care. I liked the way Jell-O dissolved on my tongue and how I could make each bite smaller than the last and still have a lot of flavor in my mouth.
This kid never changed. I still enjoy lingering over sweets. Rice pudding with aromatic spices has the same effect on me. It's deliciously rich and time-consuming to make, which makes it worth lingering over.
There are endless variations of rice pudding. I like semi-sweet rice pudding with fragrant spices cooked on the stovetop. Here’s my version, inspired from a Saveur recipe, which uses basmati rice. My creamy Arborio version adjusts the amount of milk and adds vanilla bean, black peppercorns (just a hint of heat!), and finishes with a touch of sweet, raw honey.
Rice Pudding with Cardamom, Pistachio, and Rose Water
Serves 2 hungry adults for breakfast or 4 for dessert
4 cups of milk
1/3 cup Arborio rice, rinsed
2 tablespoons sugar
6 cardamom pods
2 vanilla beans
4 black peppercorns
1 teaspoon rose water
2 tablespoons pistachios, toasted
Raw honey, to drizzle on top
Place the rice, milk, cardamom pods, vanilla beans, and black peppercorns in a sauce pan over medium heat. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer. Simmer on low heat, stirring once every 2 – 3 minutes for about 35 minutes. With a small strainer, scoop out the cardamom pods and peppercorns when the mixture is still milky. Add half of the pistachios.
Continue stirring until the mixture thickens to a pudding. Served chilled or warm, straight from the sauce pan. Sprinkle the remaining pistachios and drizzle the honey on top to serve.