I am pretty sure the first time I ever ate rice pudding was at camp, as a counselor, at around age 17. That the adults in charge let 17-year-olds be camp counselors is one of the mysteries of my adult life. Adult life, though, has solved one other mystery. I now know why a magical food like rice pudding would be served as “camp food.”
It’s filling, for one thing. It sticks to the ribs of even the most energetic elementary and middle school girls who’ve spent the day creek stomping, rock climbing, chasing stray arrows in archery class, hiking back and forth up the long hill to their cabins and creeping into enemy territory during capture the flag.
For another thing, you can make it with leftover rice. A camp kitchen is usually on a pretty tight budget, time-wise and money-wise, and re-purposing rice from Stir-Fry Night is perfectly acceptable when it comes to rice pudding. Heavy whipping cream makes everything taste like it belongs in a royal dining room, not just a camp mess hall.
And the last revelation, which is similar to the second, is that you can make rice pudding for about a dollar. If you can get coconut milk on sale and happen to have some heavy whipping cream around anyhow, you can make it for about fifty cents. Well, not quite. But it feels like it.
So since eating and cooking are processes of discovering and rediscovering, I finally remembered, nearly 17 years later, that rice pudding is fantastic and realized that my husband and I could make ourselves and our friends a warm and rich dessert now and then without straining the food budget. I also know several people who can’t do gluten, and rice pudding is a perfect dish to enjoy with them.
This week, with local rhubarb in full swing, I made rice pudding with rhubarb sauce, inspired by a Pinterest pin I saw a few weeks ago. The sauce is so simple and would be great atop ice cream, oatmeal or pound cake. And including more rhubarb in your diet means you’re adding antioxidants, potassium, calcium and dietary fiber. Not bad for something that makes your taste buds sing!
In true camp kitchen style, I started with leftover rice that I’d made using turmeric, butter and broth. Just in case those flavors could be too overwhelming, I also used half plain rice that I cooked fresh. It was delicious. I promise. Trust the heavy whipping cream.
The rhubarb sauce tastes like a lemony apple sauce, and this rice pudding tastes so creamy it’s almost like ice cream. Together, rhubarb and rice pudding blend like the lingering notes of “Taps” the counselor hears as she zips up her sleeping bag and rests her head on a pillow that is somehow softer than she ever noticed before.
- RICE PUDDING:
- 1 cup heavy whipping cream
- 1 cup coconut milk
- 1 14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk
- 2 cups cooked rice
- 2 cinnamon sticks
- 1-2 strips orange zest
- a pinch or two of kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- RHUBARB SAUCE:
- 1½ cups chopped rhubarb (you can peel the red skin off the outside of the rhubarb if you're worried it will be too stringy).
- 1 teaspoon minced orange zest
- 3 tablespoons orange juice
- ¼ cup granulated sugar
- Combine all rhubarb sauce ingredients in a small saucepan and stir together. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and cook on low, stirring occasionally, until you can mash all the rhubarb. (It should become about the consistency of homemade applesauce.)
- Meanwhile, combine all rice pudding ingredients except vanilla in a saucepan. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low. Stirring occasionally, simmer rice mixture until it is thick and pudding-like but with a little bit of liquid at the edges, about 45 minutes. Stir in the vanilla.
- Top the rice pudding with rhubarb sauce and enjoy!
* * *