Blueberry and Black Rice Pudding

1/2 cup Forbidden rice (Chinese black rice)
1 cup water
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup low-fat milk or rice beverage
1 cup unsweetened low-fat coconut milk
1/4 cup mild honey
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup blueberries

Combine the rice, water and salt in a saucepan, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat, cover and simmer 35 to 40 minutes, until all of the water is absorbed.

Add the milk, coconut milk and honey to the rice, and stir together. Bring to a boil, stirring, then reduce the heat and simmer, stirring often, for five to 10 minutes, until creamy. Add the vanilla and blueberries, and continue to simmer for another five minutes.

Scrape into a bowl or into individual serving dishes. Cover and chill for at least two hours before serving.

Black Beans and Rice

1 tablespoon canola oil or extra virgin olive oil
1/2 medium onion, thinly sliced across the grain
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 cups cooked medium- or long-grain white rice, or brown basmati rice
1 1/2 cups cooked black beans with about 1/2 cup of their cooking liquid
Salt to taste

Heat the oil in a large, heavy saucepan or skillet over medium heat, and add the onion. Cook, stirring, until the onion is tender, about five minutes. Stir in the garlic. Cook, stirring, until fragrant, 30 seconds to a minute. Add the rice, beans and about 1/2 cup broth from the beans. Stir gently for about five minutes until the mixture is heated through, and serve. The mixture should be moist. Add more broth if necessary.

Variation: For Veracruz-style black beans and rice, add one to three minced serrano or jalape?o chiles. Cook along with the onion before adding the garlic, rice and beans. In Veracruz, this dish would be served with fried plantains.

Advance preparation: You can make this several hours ahead so long as you have more broth to add when you heat it up; otherwise, the rice will be dry.

Apricot Puree

2 1/2 pounds fresh, ripe apricots
3 tablespoons sugar, preferably organic, or mild honey like clover

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Fill a bowl with ice water. When the water comes to a boil, drop in the apricots and boil for 20 seconds. Transfer to the ice water with a slotted spoon or a spider, and allow to cool for a few minutes. Drain, slip off the skins, cut in half and remove the stones.

Place the apricots and sugar or honey in a large, heavy saucepan, and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Simmer 10 to 15 minutes, stirring often, until the apricots have broken down into a thick pur?e. Remove from the heat, and allow to cool in the pan. When cool, use a rubber spatula to scrape the pur?e into a jar or a container. Cover and refrigerate.

Yield: 2 cups.

Apricot Crumble

8 medium-size or 12 small apricots
2 tablespoons finely chopped almonds, raw or toasted
2 to 3 teaspoons raw brown sugar like turbinado sugar or Sugar in the Raw), to taste
2 tablespoons fresh breadcrumbs
2 teaspoons unsalted butter, at room temperature, plus additional for the ramekins
Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Butter four 6-ounce or 1-cup ramekins. Pit and quarter the apricots, and arrange in the ramekins, using two apricots per ramekin (three if the apricots are small). If you have to make smaller slices to fill empty spaces in the ramekins, that?s fine.

Mix together the chopped almonds, brown sugar, breadcrumbs, butter and nutmeg. Dot the apricots with the topping, using about a tablespoon for each ramekin.

Place the ramekins on a baking sheet, and bake 15 to 20 minutes until the apricots are bubbling and the topping is lightly browned. Remove from the heat, and allow to cool for at least 20 minutes before serving.

Stir-Fried Chinese Cabbage

4 garlic cloves, minced
2 teaspoons minced ginger
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 star anise, broken in half
2 teaspoons soy sauce (more to taste)
2 tablespoons Shao Hsing rice wine or dry sherry
2 tablespoons peanut or canola oil
1 small cabbage, 1 to 1 1/2 pounds, quartered, cored and cut crosswise into 1/8-inch shreds
1 medium carrot, cut into julienne
Salt to taste
2 tablespoons minced chives, Chinese chives or cilantro

Combine the garlic, ginger, red pepper flakes and star anise in a small bowl. Combine the soy sauce and wine or sherry in another small bowl.

Heat a 14-inch flat-bottomed wok or a 12-inch skillet over high heat until a drop of water evaporates within a second or two when added to the pan. Swirl in the oil by adding it to the sides of the pan and tilting it back and forth. Add the garlic, ginger, pepper flakes and star anise. Stir-fry for a few seconds, just until fragrant, then add the cabbage and carrots. Stir-fry for one to two minutes until the cabbage begins to wilt, then add the salt and wine/soy sauce mixture. Cover and cook over high heat for one minute until just wilted. Uncover and stir-fry for another 30 seconds, then stir in the chives or cilantro and remove from the heat. The cabbage should be crisp-tender. Serve with rice or noodles.