Sunday, March 28, 2004

What's better than hominy grits?

Several posts back I warned the hapless cybernaut that this site has very, very little to do with food. It might have nothing to do with food, were it not for this little note about a recent culinary adventure (an experience!) of mine. If I've now whetted your apetite for more, please read on!

So what is better than hominy grits? Good old fashioned tapioca pudding!

I've always had fond memories of tapioca pudding, and several months ago, wandering aimless and confused through the supermarket when I happened upon a box of Kraft Minute Tapioca, I decided to try to make this bit of childhood bliss in my own kitchen.

Unfortunately, making tapioca pudding is not as simple as just buying a box of Kraft Minute Tapioca. The recipe is not hard, but nonetheless, I seemed only able to make tapioca soup. I found some other recipes and tried them, and even fiddled with the recipe, but still no luck. Soup. Tasty soup, but soup all the same.

I had pretty much given up on tapioca pudding when, just last week, I was in the health food store looking for buckwheat flour (that's another story altogether), when quite serendipitously (don't you love that word?) I happened upon "Bob's Red Mill All Natural Small Pearl Tapioca."

Aha! I thought. Maybe this is what I need. I bought it forthwith and hurried home to try again. The result was fabulous. Lesson learned: pre-cooked "minute" tapioca is for the birds. You gotta get the real stuff. Here's the recipe, from the back of the Bob's Red Mill bag:

What you'll need:
1/3 cup of the small pearl tapioca
3/4 cup of water
2 and 1/4 cups of 2% milk
1/4 tsp. Salt
2 eggs, separated (always a blast trying separate eggs)
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Directions: "Soak small pearl tapioca in water for 30 minutes in a 1 1/2 quart saucepan. Add milk, salt and lightly beaten egg yolks to tapioca and stir over medium heat until boiling. Simmer uncovered over very low heat for 10-15 minutes. Stir often. Beat egg whites with sugar until soft peaks form [I had little luck with the soft peaks, but the pudding came out alright anyhow]. Fold about 3/4 cup of hot tapioca into the egg whites, then gently fold mixture back into saucepan. Stir over low heat for about 3 minutes. Cool 15 minutes then add vanilla. Serve warm or chilled, plain or with nutmeg or coconut mixed in. Makes 3 1/2 cups."

It's a bit of work, but well worth it.

What's tapioca, you ask? Essentially it's just starch from a tropical root vegetable, the cassava. 1 tablespoon of tapioca pearls contains no fat, no protein, no sugar -- nothing really, except 10 grams of carbohydrate.

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