I have an Easter tale to tell before we get to today's recipes.
In my formative years, my gal pals and I hung out at the neighborhood drugstore. That's because the drugstore had a soda fountain with a counter, swivel barstools and booths, where we could drink Dr Pepper, eat french fries and read teen magazines, desperate for any shred of Beatles news.
One year, the drugstore ran an Easter promotion. I was about 8 or 9 at the time. When we strolled inside the store there was a makeshift pen at the front. Inside were a few hundred peeping baby chicks whose feathers had been dyed either blue or yellow.
Of course, the animal activist group PETA didn't exist in those days. And come to think about it, where was the health department?
Anyway, the chicks were there for the taking. And each one of us five girls decided to take one home -- without our parents' permission. Uh-oh.
Then we asked the man, what would happen to the chicks that didn't go home with someone? So I decided to take another half-dozen or so.
We carried those chicks home in little boxes. And one by one, parents refused to allow the chicks to be kept. Except mine. This is an enduring mystery to me, as my mother was not tolerant of most animals, except for our outside dog. Somehow I ended up with all those chicks.
At first, they lived in a big cardboard box on our screened porch. Naturally they outgrew the box and then had the full run of the porch.
Dad took me with him to the barber shop one Saturday. The owner presented me with a chicken feeder trough. I just figured all barbers had those things in ready supply.
Eventually, there was talk among the family about what would become of the chickens. But nothing was decided and they continued to grow. A rooster emerged, and he began to crow.
I was the youngest of five children. At dinner one night, we were all gathered around the kitchen table as usual when the phone rang in the next room. Someone answered it and to my great surprise, it was for me. Kids my age didn't get phone calls.
Well, the gentleman on the phone said he was a policeman. He understood I was raising a flock of chickens and did I know that I was breaking zoning laws? That I could be in big trouble? That I might have to pay a hefty fine? Gulp. I was mortified.
Suddenly, from the strangely mute family sitting six feet away, erupted a great roar of laughter. I had been set up and had swallowed the whole hook!
My oldest brother had convinced one of his friends to pose as an "authority," and they were all in on the joke.
I refused to eat with the family for days. Where was the People for the Ethical Treatment of Sisters?
Anyway, it did become clear the chickens couldn't stay, especially after a couple got loose. We gave the rest away to someone who could raise them. I don't know their fate, but I can imagine. And the next year Dad made the porch into a den.
Fit for the Lowcountry
A West Ashley reader asked for rice pudding recipes. It's a perfect dessert for the rice-loving Lowcountry and would be a nice end to an old-fashioned Sunday dinner.
Joy Love of Eutawville writes, "Many years ago I was a waitress at a little restaurant on a dairy farm in Pottstown, Pa. ... The owner, Mrs. High, made everything from scratch, especially her desserts. I never cared for rice pudding until I tasted hers. She was gracious enough to share her recipe with me. I've been making it ever since. Yum!"
Mrs. H.'s Best-Ever Rice Pudding
10 cups whole milk
1 cup uncooked white rice
1 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
In a large ovenproof baking dish, combine the milk, rice, sugar and salt. Bake uncovered at 275 degrees about 3 hours. Stir every half hour. When soft and creamy, cool and stir in the vanilla extract. If the pudding gets too stiff, thin with cream.
Mary Larry of Charleston passes along a recipe from the local "Popular Greek Recipes" cookbook, compiled by the Ladies of Philoptochos Society of the Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church.
Rice Pudding (Rizogalo)
Yields 8-10 servings
1/4 cup long-grain rice
1/2 cup water
Dash of salt
1 quart milk
1 cup sugar
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon cornstarch
4 eggs, well-beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Cinnamon to taste
Combine rice, water and salt. Cover and simmer until water is absorbed. Add milk, sugar and butter. Cook for 40 minutes. Remove from heat. Dissolve cornstarch in small amount of milk mixture. Blend cornstarch and eggs. Slowly pour into milk mixture, stirring constantly until well-blended. Simmer for 2 minutes until slightly thickened. Stir in vanilla. Pour pudding into individual custard cups. Sprinkle with cinnamon.
Peri Chapar of Mount Pleasant writes, "I found this in a cookbook that I got for Christmas one year. It is a recipe from the Santiago Family in Meriden, Conn."
She adds that cooking times vary according to climate. "Don't worry; this recipe is very forgiving of cooking lapses, just don't overcook!"
Puerto Rican-Style Sweet Rice Pudding
(Arroz Con Dulce)
4 cups water
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cloves
1 teaspoon crushed fresh ginger
1 (14-ounce) can coconut cream, such as Coco Lopez
1 cup regular, uncooked, short-grain rice (see cook's note)
1 cup sugar
1 tablespoon cooking oil (optional)
1/2 cup raisins
Cook's note: For best results, soak rice in water overnight or at least 4 to 6 hours prior to cooking. Drain.
Add the salt, cloves and ginger to 3 cups of water in a deep saucepan. Bring to a boil. Strain through a colander, reserving the water, to remove the remnants of the spices. Bring the water to a boil once again.
Add the coconut cream, rice, sugar and oil, if using. Cook covered over medium-low heat for about 20 minutes. Add the raisins and blend. Continue to cook, uncovered, until the rice has absorbed all the water, about 15 more minutes.
Pour into a square or rectangular dish about 1-inch high and allow to cool. Sprinkle ground cinnamon or cinnamon sugar on the pudding and cut into 2-inch squares.
Nancy Jane Edelman of Seabrook Island sent recipes in response to a baked pasta casseroles request, which we'll cover next week. This one for noodle pudding, or kugel, seems more fitting here because it's also a dessert. Kugel can be savory or sweet and is traditionally served on the Jewish Sabbath.
Noodle Pudding (Kugel)
1 cup milk
1 cup sour cream
1 cup cottage cheese
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 (8-ounce) package wide egg noodles, cooked, drained and rinsed in cold water
3/4 cup golden raisins
2 teaspoons cinnamon
2 to 3 tablespoons butter (optional)
Grease a 9x12-inch baking pan or dish.
Process milk, sour cream, cottage cheese, eggs, sugar and vanilla in blender. Mix noodles with raisins and spread evenly in pan. Pour mixture over. Sprinkle with cinnamon and add butter, if desired. Bake 60 minutes at 350 degrees. Serve warm or cold.
Who's got the recipe?
Requests still outstanding:
--A Johns Islander is looking for various trifle or punch bowl cake recipes.
--A West Ashley reader asks for ideas for a Mother's Day brunch (May 8), but not egg dishes. She also is looking for shrimp stir-fry recipes.
--Another reader asks if anyone has an easy recipe for scones, especially cranberry-orange.
Looking for a recipe or have one to share? Reach Food Editor Teresa Taylor at email@example.com, 937-4886, or 134 Columbus St., Charleston, SC 29403-4800.