Monday, May 3, 2010

Tonight: vanilla pudding, plus a special guest.

Perhaps you recall the movie “Mermaids” with Cher, Winona Ryder, Bob Hoskins and a very young Christina Ricci. And if you do, maybe you remember that one of Ryder’s character’s chief complaints about her mother was that her dinners were nothing but long strings of bite-sized hors d’ouvres. (This, for the record, was a gripe I could not relate to. At all.)

The scenes of Cher’s trays of artfully assembled tidbits came to mind as I made myself a late dinner on Saturday night; goat cheese on tiny toasts, eensy sweet-hot peppers from Culinaria’s olive bar, leisurely mouthfuls of microwave popcorn.

But I am one of those people who also needs, or more precisely craves, something sweet at the end of a meal. Meanwhile, I am trying to be more conscious of what I put in my body, calorically speaking, and so lately my need for sweetness has been fulfilled by smaller bits of satisfaction. Minute hunks of dark chocolate are a perennial favorite, but sometimes I want something more satisfying, something I can really sit down with.

I was more or less pacing the kitchen when I remembered the box of instant vanilla pudding I’d picked up at Trader Joe’s. It had been somewhat of a whim, but I’d also wanted to see if it would satisfy my husband’s never-ending craving for bland sweets.

As I was making it, and I use the verb “make” loosely, I hit on the idea of throwing some ground cardamom in half of it. Only half, because historically, my husband is so devoted to the idea of vanilla as a flavor that I assumed he wouldn’t go for the cardamom thing (I was right).

If you’ve had Indian rice pudding (kheer) it’s probably had cardamom in it; its flowery, anise-tinged flavor makes it a natural friend to milk. Most international groceries will have it, and I haven’t looked, but some of your fancier groceries might, too.

Rather shocked by the country of origin.

Ten minutes after my craving for a dessert I could spend some time with, I was covering four lovely little footed ‘60s dessert cups with bits of plastic wrap. Later, it occurred to me that this pudding was edible proof that a modern invention had the power to improve my life – if only for as long as it took to unwrap and empty a dish.
Deliciousness: Not crazy about the bubbly, loose texture, but that’s probably a function of the skim milk. The cardamom, however, was great.

Difficulty: I won’t even dignify that with a response.

Do-Over: Probably, at some point, after I take a stab at the Brown & Paulsen’s custard powder I have in the pantry.

1 Packet Trader Joe’s instant vanilla pudding

2 cups milk

2 pinches ground cardamom (optional)

Whisk, chill, enjoy, divide into individual dishes if you like.

Put it in a bowl, you'll enjoy it more!

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