Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Serendipitous Jasmine Rice with Coconut Milk and Fleur de Sel

Last evening I dropped an entire half-gallon of milk on the kitchen floor. Of course it was a glass bottle that shattered in 846,836 pieces. The shards of glass flew under the refrigerator and sprayed in a circular pattern all over the kitchen. The milk turned into a river of Amazonian proportions, with tributaries branching out in all directions. Oh yes, that was fun. I grumpily went off to bed without my warm milk and honey after gingerly carrying the triple-bagged glass out to the trash (while wearing draw-string jammie pants and a funny shirt).

This morning, I put some Jasmine rice on to simmer (I really have to buy a steamer). Once in awhile I eat a small bowl of rice for breakfast with a little sugar and cinnamon. Lately, I've been wanting to try Baby Basmati and Kalijira rice because their tiny grains cook in less than ten minutes - ideal for morning. The sugar and cinnamon having already been sprinkled, I reached for the milk. Oh yes, the clumsy demon took care of that. There was a can of evaporated milk in the pantry. No, that wouldn't work. I spied several cans of coconut milk and one that was labeled "light". Now I was in business. Necessity is indeed the mother of invention. Although even the "light" coconut milk has mucho fat compared to fat-free dairy, it's delicious and I didn't need much. Suddenly, the good angel tapped me on the shoulder and said, "Hey, doofus, how about a finishing salt? I retrieved the French Fleur de Sel and set about to create my early morning repast.

The Fleur de Sel brought out the exotic flavor of the rice and the delicacy of the coconut milk and married perfectly with the cinnamon. The slight crunch of the salt also provided textural interest. The only missing element was perhaps a bit of fruit. Thanks to the recent trade agreement between the U.S. and India, Alfonso, Kesar and Banganpally mangoes will soon be in season.


1 cup cooked Jasmine or Basmati rice
1/3 cup light coconut milk, well-shaken
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1-2 teaspoons sugar
1/4 teaspoon fleur de sel
1/3 cup chopped mango (optional)

Put the rice in a bowl. Sprinkle with the cinnamon and sugar. Add the optional mango. Pour the coconut milk over the rice. Sprinkle with the salt.

Note: Regular and light coconut milk can be found in the Asian section of your market. Do not use "cream of coconut" which has sugar added. It's fine for pina coladas and some desserts and is usually found in the liquor section.

Fleur de sel or "flower of salt" is so named because it smells like violets when harvested. It's a coarse, unprocessed, hand-gathered salt (which involves raking the top layer of crystals from salt beds), so it tends to be expensive, but a little goes a long way. Its delicate flavor adds brightness and brings out the flavors of whatever you're serving. Its crunch adds textural contrast. Maldon sea salt is a good substitute. Finishing salts are just that -they're meant to be added to a dish just before serving. Some finishing salts have a smokey taste (such as Hawaiian black salt) and others are an eye-catching red, pink (such as Himalayan), or orange. Each has a distinctive flavor (coarse grey sea salt has a briny taste) and use. They can be found at Whole Foods, Sur la Table, Williams-Sonoma, Dean & DeLuca, and at several online outlets.