Though the novelty wore off at some point, the silly popular terracotta animal figurines Chia Pets have continued to live on in myriad beastly iterations, including of the human animal, whenever anyone wanted a bit of lighthearted fun wasting edible chia seed sprouts for sculptural entertainment by growing them as hair or fur on the pottery. That, of course, was before the rediscovery of chia seeds as actual food. In recent times, not only has their tiny tastiness as green sprouts been restored to its rightful place among the many yummy sprouts now being revered as micro-mini greens, their magical gelling abilities have been discovered to make a miraculously delicious thickener for tapioca-like (but chia is more nutritious than tapioca) sauces and puddings. Merely soaking the seeds in liquid does the job, the kitchen equivalent of snapping one’s fingers and making genie surprises appear out of thin air, so I can’t think of many ingredients more all-purpose admirable.
Meanwhile, back in my dad’s childhood (even earlier than the inception of the Chia Pet, as difficult as that might be for you to believe), there was another kind of treat that made desserts desirable to him: the Kitty Dish. The ingredients of the meal were irrelevant, as long as the proper bowl contained the food meant to tempt the tot. The enticement lay not so much in the comestibles as in eating his way to the bottom of the dish to uncover the picture of the kitty in the middle of the bowl. It’s a boon to parenthood to find a container so special that it will inspire a recalcitrant child to work his way to the bottom of the serving, and when the little fellow in question was old enough to have little kids of his own, he made certain that we, too, knew of the beauties of his fabled kitty dish. So when I found a charming little dish with a kitty on it (albeit decorating the outside), I knew that I must have one of my own.
As it’s a very kawaii little item of Asian porcelain, in addition to being a lucky cat, I thought it a highly suitable vehicle for something delicate and cute in the way of a dessert or snack. Or (you know me), breakfast. In this case, it was just the right size for a scoop full of citrus pudding dotted and thickened with chia seeds, a bright, light, fanciful, froth of a dish. It was fun and yummy in equal parts. Kind of the way I imagine a little boy might have once felt about his eating when spooning up the last bites of dinner to get to the kitty picture at the bottom of the bowl.
Citrus Chia Cream
This was an oddly conglomerate dish that turned out to be less crazy and more just plain crazy-good than I expected. It happened in four phases. The first was to take 1 cup heavy cream and whip it until very thick, then fold it together with 1/2 cup lime curd (I used a good quality ready-made kind—the dish was already fussier to make than its simple taste and appearance would admit). Next, make a saucy custard of 1 cup pureed (fruit juice-) canned mandarin orange segments, a good shot of elderflower cordial or liqueur, and three eggs, blended, cooked to thicken, and cooled. The third step: combine the lime-cream, the mandarin custard, and 1 cup plain whole milk yogurt with a small pinch of salt. Lastly, stir all three creamy components together with quite a lot of chia seeds; they don’t swell hugely, so adding nearly as much as is desired in the finished pudding is fine. Chill the treat thoroughly before serving it.
I can’t guarantee you’ll like it, but I thought it was the cat’s meow.