Arroz con Leche and Love
Dinner parties are very special to me. Gathering interesting new friends or dear old pals around a beautifully set table and chatting into the wee hours over good wine and a thoughtfully prepared meal is one of my very favorite things. Lingering over leisurely meals and a bite or two of dessert is when the best conversations take place and secrets are told. Truly, the most interesting stories come out once stomachs are pleasantly full, candles are burning low and the music is mellow. It’s a bit of a balancing act, making the evening special enough so that your guests know you care, but easy enough to take part in the stories as well.
Not being the best planner-organizer, I usually manage to pull together the table and the meal before 9:00 pm when dinner guests are at my mercy -- but I often run out of steam when it comes to planning and preparing a calorie worthy uncomplicated dessert. Nine times out of ten, I concede defeat and run out to buy dessert which, in all honestly, works just fine.
Still, if I can pull off a little homemade dessert that elicits mmm’s, I feel I’ve given my guests a secret hug or the whisper of a kiss on their cheek -- a tiny secret gift -- in exchange for their friendship. Silly, I know. My friends will love me either way, but I feel like I’ve just gotten away with something when I’ve hand-made the dessert.
Some years ago, I read an article written by a woman who chose not to cook. To the dismay of her mother, domestic arts were neglected and her energy went towards a career. In the article, she tells of falling in love and discovering her lover (a talented cook - how perfect) being drawn to the ethnic food made by her mother.
She knew they were destined to be together when she realized one day that she wanted to learn to prepare something special for him. She loved him so much, she learned to make Arroz con Leche, a recipe which requires time and constant attention as the rice slowly absorbs the milk, sugar and flavor of the cinnamon sticks. In discovering love, she opened herself to sharing the gift of her time -- a very great gift indeed - whether offered to our lovers, our children or our friends.
Her lovely story touched me, and encouraged me to think about how easily distracted I can be and how much I sometimes take for granted. Within days of reading the article, I had ventured out to purchase the ingredients in order to offer my own dessert-loving husband the gift of my time. Such simple ingredients, such a sublime dessert!
I realize, and certainly hope, that my dinner guests never know how much time goes into this simple, elegant dessert...as I lay small, warm ramekins at each place setting and smile inside. The crisp bite of Fall is in the air, it’s the perfect time for Arroz con Leche, cozy dinner parties and love.
Warm 4 cups of whole milk. Heat 1 cup Arborio rice with 2 cups of water, 1/8 teaspoon salt, one cinnamon stick. Slowly add milk (about 1/2 cup at a time) to the simmering rice, stirring constantly. Let most of it absorb before adding the next portion. Finally add 1/4 cup sugar and 1 teaspoon vanilla. Stop heating when the pudding is still very soupy -- 20 minutes or so. Sprinkle with cinnamon.
Note: The inspiration for this blog and the recipe above was taken from an article titled Catching a Man With Arroz con Leche by Julia Alvarez
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