I have friends who have put off inviting me to dinner, self-conscious about their skills in the kitchen. I mourn the meals I'm missing, because there is nothing so tasty, really, than the food someone else cooks for you with utter abandon.
I have a friend who makes pickle calzones. He makes the dough with pickle juice, stuffs them with ham and bacon and cheese and dill, and invites us over for cheap beer and heartburn. In his house, playing darts and listening to Bobby Bare, they are delicious.
My brother-in-law will throw the entire contents of his CSA box into a pot and cook it down into something communal and tasty. We eat seconds and thirds in a little San Francico studio kitchen. If I try that trick at my house, it sits forlornly in the fridge for days while we eat macaroni and cheese or something, anything but the healthy mush.
My grandmother was a terrible cook, I think, looking back on it now, but she cooked for us with so much joy and hospitality that the most happy memories of her have food in them. When my sister and I spent the night at her beach house, we'd crowd into the tiny kitchen to make spaghetti and red sauce. When the noodles stuck to the ceiling, they were done. We loved snapping the wet noodles, launching them far above our tiny heads.
She had us over for dinner regularly; a soggy tabbouleh and some kind of fruit crisp--'70s-health-food-store style--were standards. In my memory, it was all familiar and delicious and we ate and ate and ran around her picnic table laughing.
She also made a baked rice pudding that I've never found a recipe for. It was a made of brown rice, studded with raisins. A vanilla custard layer dusted with nutmeg floated on top. We ate it room temperature or cold, not hot like the stovetop rice puddings are often served. I still crave it regularly. I make an approximation of this not-too-sweet delight regularly for breakfast and afternoon snacks, but it's just not the same without her.
2 cups cooked brown rice, give or take
1/3 cup raisins (omit or increase as desired)
3 cups whole milk
1/4 cup sugar
1 t. vanilla
freshly grated nutmeg
Use a 9"-by-9" Pyrex or small casserole dish--whatever you have that will also fit into a larger baking dish. I use a square glass dish tucked into a round Le Creuset casserole, and it works perfectly. Pour water into your large pan. You will be using it as a water bath to sit the small pan into, so make sure it won't overflow when you put your pudding into it. Put pan with water into the oven and preheat to 350 degrees. Your water bath will heat a bit while the oven preheats, saving you the trouble of boiling water.
Spread rice into small baking dish and sprinkle with raisins. Whisk eggs in a mixing bowl, then beat in milk, sugar, and vanilla until combined. Pour mixture over rice and dust with nutmeg. Careful set the whole thing in your water bath.
Bake until set but still wobbly in the center. Check by inserting the tip of a knife in the middle. Custard should just keep it's shape--no milky liquid rushing in around the knife. But it will continue to solidify as it cools, so you take it out when still somewhat soft. The time depends on how much rice you used, how warm your water bath got initially, whether your rice was hot or cold, those kinds of things. But mine usually takes about 1 1/2 hours with warmish rice.
Remove from water bath when done and cool in pan on rack. Serve warm, room temperature, or chilled. Store in fridge. Eat for breakfast or with a baby after naptime.