19. Panna cotta

Panna cotta makes a quick and inexpensive dessert for Sundays in Lent.

Go your way, eat the fat, and drink the sweet, and send portions unto them for whom nothing is prepared: for this day is holy unto our LORD: neither be ye sorry; for the joy of the LORD is your strength.
--Nehemiah 8:10, totally out of context, but nice anyway

We had panna cotta last night, after dinner with friends. I adapted a recipe from one of my favorite cookbooks, Patricia Wells' Trattoria. A nice thing about this dessert, besides its excellent flavor, is that you can make it the day ahead. These proportions serve four.

1. Butter four 4-oz (1/2 c) custard cups or ramekins.

2. Mix together and allow to dissolve (it takes two or three minutes):
  • one package unflavored gelatin
  • 2 Tbs half & half
  • 1 tsp flavoring extract (you can use just vanilla extract, or you can combine vanilla with almond extract; I used 1/4 tsp almond with 3/4 tsp vanilla)
3. Bring to boil over moderate heat, stirring frequently
  • 1 pint (2 c) less 2 Tbs (which you just used for the gelatin) half and half
  • 1/2 c confectioner's (powdered) sugar
4. Remove cream and sugar mixture from heat. Whisk in cream and gelatin mixture until smooth. Pour through fine-meshed strainer.

5. Pour mixture into custard cups or ramekins. Cover with plastic wrap. Refrigerate for several hours or up to a day.

You can serve the panna cotta in the cups, but I like to upend each onto a dessert plate and serve with berries. To get them out of the cups, set them in a little hot water for a few seconds and, if necessary, run a sharp knife around the edge to loosen.

The picture above left is from Wikimedia Commons. It looks a lot like our panna cotta, but was made with Greek yogurt instead of half and half. Sounds like an idea worth trying.

Yesterday's fare (for us and two guests)

Peanuts, cashews, carrot sticks

Lasagna made with 1 lb chopped mushrooms, lots of garlic, 1/2 lb smoked turkey sausage, 2 diced zucchini, a few sun-dried tomatoes, 1 jar Trader Joe marinara sauce, about 12 oz part-skim ricotta cheese, one egg, minced dried parsley and basil, fresh-ground black pepper, a bunch of parmesan, and of course lasagna noodles
Salad made with arugula (cheap at Trader Joe's!), avocado, grape tomatoes, 1/2 orange bell pepper, a few button mushrooms; dressing of olive oil and balsamic vinegar
French bread made with 3 c white bread flour and 1/2 c corn meal (I use Bittman's recipe in How to Cook Everything)
Wine: Rex Goliath chardonnay, Gnarly Head zinfandel
Panna cotta with blackberries, decaf coffee

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