waldeinsamkeit (forest solitude and the best rice pudding)

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Sorry for the wait. These days I have been overly indulgent in waldeinsamkeit: the bliss of time spent alone in the woods. Forest solitude. This beloved German word is also one of my most favourite things. Hours solo in the woods where one can appreciate the light bouncing between the tree-tops, the hum of the river below, or the crunch of running shoes on frozen soil without the distraction of human presence. Or, in my case, the panic of thinking a cougar is behind you and realizing it is just your own breath. Followed by the joy at realizing there is a distinct possibility that all the cougars are probably hibernating somewhere far away for the winter (hurrah!). The returning worry when you realize you have no information, as in zero knowledge, about the winter sleeping habits of large west coast cats. Yet again, you realize you might be a little silly to be far away from cell reception and deep in the woods where you didn’t bring a map because you always know where you are in the woods (sort of) and obviously told no one where you might be going (or that you were going anywhere at all). The peace of reaching the viewpoint, realizing you are on track, and the quiet of an easy smooth run home. All of this paragraph in one word. Waldeinsamkeit. Oh Germany; how I adore your saucy minimalism.

Stump Lake

Forest solitude is good for the soul, but too much of it is leading to loneliness and a distinct lack of productivity. Too much day-dreaming. Still, vacation from obligation is good for everyone! I spent most of November on a dreamy van-trip through the American south-west, and then enjoyed a complete sabbatical from official to-do-lists for the holidays. The break from responsiblity turned into months, and now, here I am, trying to slide back into a space of public introspection.

I am hoping I can woo someone back to this little corner with promises of cardamon-scented rice pudding, and a forthcoming attempt at puff-pastry thrown together with yet another story about my grandmother. This writing project really should be called liz likes to hike and talk about the past. Is anyone surprised? Someone must find this endearing? That said, I am excited to feel re-inspired to return to my tiny internet home. I don’t have a distinct one in the real world, so I promise to pay more care to this little abode.

Either way, here is a gift for returning. Thats right; I made you rice pudding! Rice pudding sounds humble and not worthy of courtship, but this one blew my socks off. The author (Ottolenghi) is the darling of the dinner party circuit and this recipe made me realize that while I can be cynical all i want,  some things are popular for a reason. Creamy just sweet rice, a whiff of cardamon, pistachios, and rose-scented honey syrup? You are welcome. Thanks for coming back.

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Cardamom Rice Pudding with Rose Water and Pistachios (from Jerusalem)

1 2/3 cup whole milk

1/2 cup heavy cream

***or, for the dairy free, replace all the milk with 2 cans of coconut milk with 2 tablespoons of the cream taken out and saved for the end.

1 vanilla bean, seeds scraped, or vanilla paste

8 cardamom pods, lightly crushed

scant 2/3 cup aborio rice

2 tablespoons unsalted butter, diced

2 tablespoons condensed milk, or 2 tablespoons of the reserved coconut cream.

1 tablespoon honey

salt

3 tablespoons roasted and lightly crushed pistachios

note: It seems cheaper to buy pistachios in the shell. Its not. I cursed every one as I peeled and realized most of what I bought was waste. Then I poured myself another drink to make it up. Overall, very un-economical.

SYRUP:

1 tablespoon honey

1 1/2 teaspoons rose water

1 teaspoon water

Method:

Put whole milk, cream (or 2 cans coconut milk minus 2 tablespoons of the cream to save for later), the vanilla bean and seeds, and the cardamom pods in a medium saucepan and place over high heat.  As soon as it is about to boil, remove from heat and allow to cool. Don’t boil it!

To prepare the syrup, stir together honey, rose water, and water until the honey dissolves.  Set aside.

If you don’t really like cardamon, pull the cardamom pods out of the milk or coconut milk mixture. Or, leave them in. Add the rice to the pan with the infused milk and cream, bring to a boil and simmer over medium heat, stirring all the time, for about 20 minutes.  You may need to add a little bit of water toward the end of cooking if the pudding becomes too thick before the rice is done. I used a rice cooker here and it was surprisingly perfect.

Remove from heat and pick out vanilla pod.  Stir in butter, condensed milk/reserved coconut milk, honey, and a pinch of salt.  You can chill the mix now or serve immediately in bowls, sprinkled with pistachios and drizzled with  the delicious rose syrup.

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