Rice Pudding With Toasted Almonds
6 C. water
1 1/2 C. arborio or other short-grained rice
6 C. milk
1 vanilla bean or 1 t. vanilla extract
1/2 C. plus 1 T. sugar
Grated zest of 1/2 orange plus strips of orange zest, optional
1/2 C. raisins, dried cherries, dried sweetened cranberries or other chopped dried fruit, optional
1/4 to 1/2 C. chopped, toasted almonds
Fresh mint leaves, optional
In a large, heavy saucepan, bring 6 cups water to boil. Add rice and boil, uncovered, 7 minutes. Drain well and set rice aside.
Bring milk and vanilla bean (but not vanilla extract) to boil in same saucepan over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally. Add rice and salt and cook, uncovered, over medium-low heat, stirring often, 20 minutes or until rice is very soft and absorbs most of milk. Rice should look creamy, not soupy and not dry.
Remove vanilla bean. Stir in sugar, grated orange zest and raisins and cook 2 minutes, stirring. If using vanilla extract, stir it in now. Reserve 2 tablespoons toasted almonds for sprinkling over pudding. Stir remaining almonds into pudding. Serve warm or cool in small bowls, sprinkled with reserved chopped almonds. Garnish with mint leaves and orange zest strips, if using.
Makes 7 to 8 servings.
How to toast nuts: Place nuts in a single layer on a baking sheet. Toast them in a 350° F. oven about 5 minutes, shaking pan periodically to turn the nuts, until nuts are golden and fragrant.