Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Rice pudding recipe with loquats and coconut milk

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One of the things I like most about living in southern California is that there's fruit growing on trees everywhere you look. Every backyard, many front yards, some sidewalks, a handful of medians, one freeway off-ramp in my neighborhood - fruit trees of all kinds. It's like Los Angeles is one giant, untended, patchwork quilt of an orchard.

Native Californians are unfazed by this bounty. But I grew up in New York, and I still get a thrill every time I see a tree heavy with oranges or pomegranates or apricots. It's strange that there are so few fruit-bearing trees on Long Island where I grew up, actually - the climate is fine for apples, pears, cherries, anything that needs a winter chill. But somehow, fruit trees didn't fit into the planned subdivisions of the New York suburbia in which I was raised. Was it because no one wanted to clean up after them? Because they thought the fruit wouldn't survive on the East coast without pesticides? I really don't know, and back then I didn't know what I was missing.

But now, living in Los Angeles, I can't get enough of backyard fruit. When we bought our house in Santa Monica 13 years ago, the first thing I did was plant more fruit trees. The yard had avocado, lemon and fig trees when we moved in; over the years I've added several Meyer lemons, a Santa Rosa plum, a Mexican lime, and a kumquat that, sadly, has never fruited, though it's not dead either. We lost a few young citrus trees that, out of ignorance, I planted right where we'd had a eucalyptus removed; apparently eucalyptus leaves unpleasant residue in the soil for quite a while, and it was too much for the clementine and navel orange babies.

My neighbors and work friends are starting to understand that if they share their backyard fruit with me, I will return it in the form of delicious treats. That's how I ended up with the kumquats that made it into last week's kumquat bread. And it's how I got several pounds of loquats over the past week from my coworkers Tonia and Scott, whose loquat tree is turning out so much fruit the squirrels and birds can't even keep up. I turned the loquats into jam by peeling, seeding and chopping them, then stewing them with sugar. And then, because Scott eats gluten-free, I made rice pudding.

Loquats, for those of you unfamiliar, look like small light-orange testicles. (Well, they do!) The skin peels off easily with your fingers. The flesh looks like an orange lychee, and that's sort of what it tastes like too - floral and sweet with a little pucker. It's got a few big brown seeds in the middle, which I hear are poisonous, so don't eat them.

Just so you know I have my priorities in order: This morning when I rode my bike to work I remembered to take both my snack bag and a container of this rice pudding for Tonia and Scott. However, I managed to forget my wallet, keys (including the key to my bicycle lock, forcing me to park my bike next to my desk), cell phone, and all the other goodies that live in my handbag, which I also forgot. Luckily I live only two miles from my office, and my husband was nice enough to play messenger boy. He was in a good mood - the rice pudding agreed with him, too.

Rice pudding with loquats and coconut milk
  • 1 cup Arborio or other short-grain rice
  • 1 can coconut milk
  • 4 cups milk (low-fat is fine)
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 cup loquat jam
Combine the rice, coconut milk, milk, sugar and salt in a heavy saucepan and bring to a boil. Turn down the heat and simmer uncovered for 45 minutes or until the rice is tender. Check the pan occasionally; the milk will want to boil over, but try not to let it or you'll end up having to take apart the stove (yes, I did). If the pudding gets too dry and thick, add some water. When it's done you want it to be loose but not soupy; it will absorb more liquid as it stands.

Stir in the loquat jam and serve. Garnish with toasted coconut if you like - you'll notice there's none in the photo above, because I was rushing to get to work this morning. If I'd had a few minutes, I definitely would have added the toasted coconut.


Hilary Cable said...

Thank you for reminding us natives how spolied we are! I planted 3 citrus trees this year because my yard is one of just a handful with no fruit trees.

Tonia Weisner said...

We are so lucky to be the receivers of the yummy jam and rice pudding!

Kathy Diaz (foundbaking) said...

I so love Twitter and now I am following you back and I get to enjoy lovely blog posts like yours. I have never heard of loquats before. Rice pudding looks really yummy. Love the fact that they are so comforting.

Jenny said...

i wish I could be there to taste this. It sounds delightful, and your garden just seems so enticing. We're warm here now, but it's only a peek at summer. June will get cold again before our garden can really pop in July & August.

Erika Kerekes said...

@Jenny - my own garden is nothing special right now. Luckily, my neighbors and friends are quite generous.

@Kathy - so glad to meet you! Loquats are a particularly southern California thing, I think, so if you live elsewhere it doesn't surprise me that you'd never heard of them. I hadn't either until a few years ago, and I've been living here 15 years.

@Tonia - my husband will tell you he's the lucky one - he LOVED the loquat rice pudding, which was only made possible by you!

@Hilary - what did you plant?

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