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Enjoy mandarins in a creamy parfait

Instant tapioca provides a base for a light dessert

These mandarin tapioca parfaits have garnishes such as coconut, pomegranate arils and  almonds.

These mandarin tapioca parfaits have garnishes such as coconut, pomegranate arils and almonds. Photos by Kathy Morrison

6 mandarin oranges in a blue bowl, with a pomegranate and another mandarin alongside
Mandarins make a wonderful snack on their own.

Mandarins are my favorite citrus fruit, and the Satsumas are the best of those, I think: easy to peel, just tart enough and the right size for a snack.

This is the weekend for the Mountain Mandarin Festival, so I thought I'd come up with a recipe that featured the fruit's refreshing flavor and offers a contrast to the pumpkin-spice-cranberry-apple overload coming later in the week.

This recipe took some tweaking, since the first version I tried came out nice but plain -- good for kids but not sophisticated enough for adult palates. 

I started with a recipe from the Los Angeles Times, first choosing to reduce it from 6 servings to 4. Then I discovered that the bottle in the refrigerator that I thought was whole milk actually was heavy cream, which is too heavy on its own for a pudding. But I remembered I had a can of coconut milk, the kind with the layer of solids, so decided to use that, adding a little of the cream to get it to the needed 2 cups.

Otherwise I followed the recipe, but the end product needed some oomph, my husband (the resident taster) and I agreed.

The recipe here is what resulted when I played around with the liquid and the flavoring. The coconut milk is still a good choice for the liquid, but I prefer the version with half and half. The revision also tastes more like mandarin oranges, which after all was the goal.

Mandarin parfaits with tapioca

Serves 4


White bowl interior, multi-colored whisk and yellowish tapioca
Instant tapioca is the base for the parfaits.

6 mandarin oranges, such as Satsumas, about 1 pound

2 tablespoons instant tapioca granules

2 cups half and half or whole milk or one 13-1/2-ounce can coconut milk plus milk or non-dairy milk to measure 2 cups

2 tablespoons granulated sugar

1 egg, lightly beaten

3/8 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/2  teaspoon almond extract

2 tablespoons minced candied ginger, divided

Choice of accent for parfaits:

1/2 cup sliced almonds, lightly toasted, or

1/2 cup shredded coconut, unsweetened, or

1/2 cup pomegranate arils

Parfaits in progress, with a green cutting board nearby
Layer the tapioca, then mandarins, then accent.


Peel 4 of the mandarins and split into sections, removing as much of pith and strings as desired. Then cut the sections in half and place in a small bowl. Cut the other 2 mandarins in half without peeling, and juice them. Pour the juice over the section halves in the bowl, and stir in half the candied ginger. Set the bowl aside.

In a medium saucepan, whisk together the tapioca, whatever milk you're using, the egg, sugar, salt and the extracts. Bring the mixture to a rolling bowl, stirring frequently, then remove it from the heat.

Pour the hot tapioca into a glass or ceramic bowl. Refrigerate until set, about 1 hour.

When ready to put together the parfaits, pour 2 tablespoons of the mandarin juice from the macerating oranges into the bowl of tapioca. Whisk the juice and the remaining ginger into the tapioca just until combined.

Set out 4 bowls or half-pint Mason jars that will hold the parfaits. Spoon 2 generous tablespoons of tapioca into the bottom of each of the jars. (It doesn't have to be exact.) Using a slotted spoon, place 4 or 5 mandarin section halves on top of the tapioca, then sprinkle on some of your chosen accent. (They also can be combined; the coconut and almonds go well together.)

Two parfait jars on a green placemat, with spoons and a mandarin orange nearby
Taller half-pint jars show off the layers.

Repeat twice more so that there are 3 layers of tapioca, mandarins and accent, ending with the accent.

Chill an hour before serving. If serving time is later and you're using the Mason jars, try putting lids on the jars for better storage.


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Garden Checklist for week of July 7

Take care of garden chores early in the morning, concentrating on watering. We’re still in survival mode until this heat wave breaks.

* Keep your vegetable garden watered, mulched and weeded. Water before 8 a.m. to conserve moisture.

* Prevent sunburn; provide temporary shade for tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, melons, squash and other crops with “sensitive” skin.

* Hold off on feeding plants until temperatures cool back down to “normal” range. That means daytime highs in the low to mid 90s.

* Don’t let tomatoes wilt or dry out completely. Give tomatoes a deep watering two to three times a week. Harvest vegetables promptly to encourage plants to produce more.

* Squash especially tends to grow rapidly in hot weather. Keep an eye on zucchini.

* Some weeds thrive in hot weather. Whack them before they go to seed.

* Pinch back chrysanthemums for bushy plants and more flowers in September.

* Harvest tomatoes, squash, peppers and eggplant. Prompt picking will help keep plants producing.

* Remove spent flowers from roses, daylilies and other bloomers as they finish flowering.

* Pinch off blooms from basil so the plant will grow more leaves.

* Cut back lavender after flowering to promote a second bloom.

* One good thing about hot days: Most lawns stop growing when temperatures top 95 degrees. Keep mower blades set on high.

* Once the weather cools down a little, it’s not too late to add a splash of color. Plant petunias, snapdragons, zinnias and marigolds.

* After the heat wave, plant corn, pumpkins, radishes, winter squash and sunflowers. Make sure the seeds stay hydrated.

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