Ingredient: Rice

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The Lebanese dishes are countless that include rice as a component. If rice isn’t there in a stuffing of some sort, it’s underneath as a beautiful, and delicious, bed that soaks up juices and contributes to the overall nutritive value of the plate.

When we make rice as an accompaniment to dishes like baked eggplant sheik al mehshee, long grain rice is preferred. Long grain offers the right texture and ability to cook and separate so the grains are distinct. Often rice served like this includes toasted pine nuts or almonds, as well as thin toasted pasta noodles.

Given the ubiquitous nature of rice in Lebanese cuisine, it’s not surprising that it shows up in dessert too. Finally this week we are going to make something sweet with our rice: Lebanese rice pudding, fragrant with orange blossom water. It tastes as good as it sounds.

The best rice for a pudding is medium or short grain. These aren’t difficult to find—just look around your grocery’s grain shelves and it will be there. Shorter grains make for a creamier texture while keeping a firm interier, which is why the short-grained Arborio rice is used in risottos.

This pudding is so homey and comforting, I think you’re going to make it more than once. Opening a bottle of orange blossom water is a heavenly form of aromatherapy, and the creamy goodness of the rice pudding is like having your mother stroke your forehead after a long day.

I’m afraid that now that I’ve crossed the line into sweets, we’re going to have a flood of them. That won’t be all bad though, will it?

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  1. Christina Shape says:

    Thanks Maureen! I am going to buy your cookbook! Twenty years ago i was dating a guy who was Lebanese American— his last name was “Haick,” who had relatives in Niagara Falls, New York, as well as in Michigan. His mother had taught me a few recipes to cook, which i thoroughly enjoyed. I also purchased my first Lebanese cookbook by author Helen Corey, which the book has fallen apart from much use. I looked at your recipes on this blog and they take me back to those days in my kitchen where i would labor for hours, making foods that would being sheer joy, comfort, and bring people together. Lebanese show their love through food, and i am so glad got an opportunity to learn how to make it! I thoroughly enjoy your blog and recipes!

    1. Maureen Abood says:

      Christina, thank you! I have that book as well by Helen Corey, a great one!

  2. Christina Shape says:

    Hi Maureen,

    Do you have the recipe for rice with toasted noodles?
    And also–regarding your picture of Hushwe, are there slivered almonds i see in the rice? because they look too long to be pine nuts. By the way-love, love, love your blog and recipes!!!

    1. Maureen Abood says:

      Hi Christine–the rice for pasta with vermicelli is in my cookbook, but not on my blog. The Hushwe does include toasted almonds rather than pine nuts. I love the almonds but both are delicious! Thanks so much!

  3. tasteofbeirut says:

    Growing up in Lebanon, the rice used for homestyle dishes was Egyptian, the medium-grain starchy kind and it required skill to get it just right.