It's Not Chocolate? And She Ate It? My Very Own Panna Cotta...

Posted by Anisha | Posted in , , , , , , | Posted on 8/09/2009

"Never be afraid to try something new. Remember, amateurs built the ark. Professionals built the Titanic."

I know that at least once in your life, someone close to you has suggested to mix up your routine. Maybe they told you to "try something new" or "expand your horizons." If you lived in my home, you would soon find out it's my mom's mantra. Whenever it comes down to choosing a restaurant for a birthday, anniversary, etc. she insists on traveling a few extra miles or going to an appetizing "hole in the wall." Sometimes we applaud ourselves for discovering a trendy, new joint; however, there are times where we return home without the "doggie bag" because the food did not deserve a place on our already over-crowded refrigerator. Whenever and wherever we dine out, we can't order the same entree (the only exception is the Sonoma goat cheese salad at Louise's Trattoria -- it's godly). Unfortunately, the same principle does not apply in the frequent occasions that I decide to bake. I tend to stick with the classics: chocolate chip cookies, dark chocolate chip brownies, jam thumbprint cookies. This time, two events steered me into the direction of something that can't (and shouldn't) be described using the words "chewy" or "crunchy:" panna cotta.

To start off, I wasn't familiar with panna cotta and I won't pretend to be. Panna cotta sounded like ricotta cheese and "panna" reminded me of the "espresso con pannas" (espresso with whipped cream) that a quite gorgeous customer ordered where I once worked as a barista at Starbucks. After much needed research, I discovered panna cotta quite literally means a "cooked cream." The consistency ought to be "wobbly" and resemble the French flan. I was both curious and hesitant to see if I could conjure up anything that wasn't a dough at one point and did not need to be baked.

As I mentioned before, two events formed my resolution to make panna cotta with a fruit sauce:

The first event was a weekly grocery trip to Trader Joe's. My boyfriend and I were in the freezer section perusing the desserts. Being the chocoholic that I am, I had to have some sort of decadent, chocolate dessert; the one significant splurge of the week. Should I get the molten lava cake that my boyfriend and I nibbled on at our first drive-in movie? [correction: he nibbled, I scarfed down] Or how about the chocolately birthday confetti cake that I bought for an impromptu birthday visit? While I was pondering, I glanced over to see what Sid was looking at: a seemingly delicious looking, milky treat covered with fresh berries. It looked great, but the concept of a frozen semblance of a pudding deterred me. I told him that I would create a better panna cotta in my own kitchen, fruit sauce and all!

The second event was a trip to Cost Plus World Market. If you haven't been to one before, you ought to make a trip out of it. There's something for just about everyone, ranging from embroidered pillows to imported Asian crackers. My boyfriend loves their beer and wine selection, as well as their variety of foods and sparkling sodas from all over the world. This particular time I was searching for some silicone bakeware, because teflon-coated pans release harmful toxins that stay in your system. Le Creuset was on my list as the premier silicone bakeware provider; other silicone trays mix in harmful fillers -- deceptive, no? In the baking section, I did not find Le Creuset. Dissapointed, I browsed the shelves for cute cookie cutters to add to my collection. Instead, pearly white ramekins caught my eye. Ramekins of all shapes and sizes were listed in the red clearance section for only $1 a pop! I instantly bought four knowing that panna cotta would be the first dish to grace those dishes!

Finally, after an exhausting day of errands, I mustered up the energy to work on the panna cotta. I pleaded with the Kitchen God for success, in hopes that it would be my inaugural blog post. Later, I realized that many bloggers don't highlight their failures in the kitchen. There aren't pictures of the jam that spilled over onto the pristine white counter top. With that said, let's be honest about cooking. I pledge to you: if I burn a batch of cookies because I forgot to set the timer, I will blog about it. I plan to highlight both my failures and my successes, even though I'm sure you'll appreciate the latter more!

The following is the recipe I used to make my very successful (triple taste-tested and Sid-approved) panna cotta with strawberry, nectarine, cranberry sauce. Three different recipes by the following chefs were combined: Silvano Marchetto, Mario Batali, and Giada de Laurentiis.

Panna Cotta Recipe
Number of servings: 4 ramekins

3 tablespoons cold milk
1 cup heavy cream
1 cup low fat yogurt
1 envelope gelatin
1/4 cup of sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla

1. In a medium-sized bowl, sprinkle the gelatin evenly onto the cold milk.
2. At low-medium heat, warm up the heavy cream, low fat yogurt, and sugar. Keep stirring for about 5-7 minutes until both the sugar has dissolved and the mixture has reached an even, milky consistency. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla extract.
3. Pour mixture into the four, one cup ramekins. Cover ramekins and refrigerate for at least two hours.
Fruit Sauce

1/2 pint strawberries
1 nectarine, finely sliced
2 oz. dried or fresh cranberries
2 oz. sugar or 1 oz. honey
1 oz. rose syrup

1. Dice half of the strawberries and nectarine into a saucepan. Add cranberries, sugar, honey, and rose syrup and stir on low heat. Continue stirring and wait for the mixture to boil. Taste for sweetness and add more sugar/honey if necessary.
2. Transfer mixture onto a cool dish and refrigerate. Upon serving, add remaining strawberries to the sauce.

Choose any of your favorite fruits for this fruit sauce recipe! I still need to make a few tweaks to it as well. My mom recommended adding a tad bit of gelatin to help the "runny-ness" factor.

The final product:

I hope you enjoyed my very first post & recipe @foodismynish!

Comments (2)

Typically panna cotta is like the LAST THING I'd order on a dessert menu, but the panna cotta with caviar at Ludo Bites was pretty slap-my-thigh-and-telephone-my-mama good. Still, I'm not sure if panna cotta could ever take the place of my first loves - chocolate and ice cream.

From one chocoholic to another, I think I will try a rich chocolate sauce with the next panna cotta. I have to say though, I was pleasantly surprised with it! I'm making a reservation for Ludo Bites for next week! I'm so excited.

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