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Quinoa Pudding with Citrus and Pistachio

Statistically speaking, it's likely that at some point in your life, someone has ladled a scoop of creamy rice pudding into a bowl for you. It may have been your grandmother or mother, perhaps the sweet old lady at the deli or cafeteria down the street, or maybe you just plucked a container of Kozy Shack off the shelf at the grocery store and did the scooping yourself.

Whatever the case, rice pudding is an ancient dish that falls squarely into the "Comfort Food" category around the world, spanning cultures, cuisines, and religion. Whether boiled or baked, with eggs or none, steeped with citrus or spices, accented by nuts or raisins, served warm or cold, rice pudding is consistently thick, delicately sweet, and just creamy enough.

Despite my affection for this starchy indulgence, I'm equally inclined to enjoy my favorite comfort foods in slightly healthier forms. To update this classic, I've kept the dairy in place, and swapped white rice for nutrient-rich quinoa. This complete protein is technically a seed, but functions as a grain for its cooking characteristics. Soft and fluffy with a mild, slightly nutty flavor, quinoa retains it's texture well and is a natural replacement for rice.

Here, we've baked it low and slow for a creamy pudding that doesn't require frequent stirring over the stove. To make this simple dish dessert worthy, we've topped it with pistachios, blood orange segments, and a sweet syrup made with the extra citrus juice. 

Quinoa Pudding with Citrus and Pistachio
Serves 4

1/2 cup quinoa
3 cups milk
1/4 cup sugar
1 cinnamon stick
Rind of 1 meyer lemon, peeled in large strips with a potato peeler 
Few scrapes of fresh nutmeg
2 green cardamom pods

Topping:
2 medium blood oranges or tangerines, or combination
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 tablespoon butter
Chopped Pistachios

Heat oven to 300°F. Place quinoa in a fine-mesh strainer and rinse under cold water, drain. Combine with milk, sugar, cinnamon, zest, nutmeg, and cardamom. Pour into an 8x8 glass baking dish and bake for 2 1/2- 3 hours, stirring every 45 minutes, until pudding reaches desired degree of thickness. 

For the topping segment citrus over a bowl, reserving juice. Combine 1/4 cup reserved juice in a small saucepan with brown sugar and butter. Bring to a simmer and cook until reduced to a thick syrup. Serve over pudding with citrus segments and pistachios.

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