I have been very slowly reading through recipes in my new Syrian cookbook, and had planned this week to make an intriguing salad involving mint and pickled beets, but after an unexpectedly stressful week at work and some late nights, I needed a bit of comfort food as a reward. I also needed (#firstworldproblems) to use at least some of the massive bag of saffron I lugged home from Thailand.
For me, rice pudding is the perfect eat-your-feelings food because it combines pure sugar and carbohydrates and its texture is so delightfully spoonable. I remember reading in Comfort Me With Apples how Ruth Reichl ate an entire pot of rice pudding one fretful evening standing up by the stove and I could totally relate. I also liked the backstory of zarda, which apparently was the equivalent of the cupcake in 16th-century Ottoman Syria as it was the go-to dessert for celebrations. The recipe below is adapted from The Aleppo Cookbook.
1 cup short-grain white rice
1 tsp ground saffron plus a few errant whole threads
4 cups water
1 cup sugar
3 tablespoons orange blossom water
Handful of almonds or pistachios