As the two of us hungrily gathered over the large skillet brimming with succulent golden rice, dark turkey pieces, squid, shrimp, tiny whole fish (I've already forgotten their German name, never knew their English name), Spanish ham (oops, another memory-omission, was it serrano?), red and orange bell peppers, tomatoes, peas, onions and garlic ringed by eight lemon wedges that seemed a pale yellow compared to the rest of the dish, V asked, "do you want to take a picture?" . . . well, no. It was gorgeous; I don't know why I've not been feeling like photographing my food recently. Of course I am talking about paella. :)

For dessert we had yogurt and mashed berry panna cotta, with little shortbread cookies on the side. Let me tell you how I arrived at this dessert:

Saturday night I made broiled salmon with a chipotle-berry glaze, along with a bean/tomato/spring onion/parsley salad with a chipotle-lime-cumin dressing. I let the salad sit at room temperature for about an hour before we ate it, it got so juicy and tasted not too far off from salsa. I even got out some tortilla chips to dip in it, and to help cut the heat from all those chipotles. To make the glaze for the fish, I had first let some frozen mixed berries defrost in a strainer over a bowl. Once they were defrosted I added to the juice already in the bowl by smashing the berries in the strainer with a spatula. As I only used the juice in the glaze (reduced with chipotle, lime and ginger) for the fish, I had leftover berry mush.

So yesterday my desert plans came together quickly. I've been making yogurt panna cotta (not a true panna cotta, but a seriously healthy and easy variation) almost regularly (maybe even once a month!) The first time was vanilla-cardamom panna cotta with orange syrup and marinated orange slices. The second time was Stracciatella. Yesterday's was the best yet, though, mixed berry mush, hints of cinnamon and cardamom, with a whole, fresh, beautifully ripe cherry (halved to get rid of the pit of course) sitting at the top once they're unmolded. When I tasted the mixture before pouring it into custard cups, I instantly thought that it would taste good next to shortbread. A strange thing to think so quickly, especially as I was not really looking to make a second dessert. :) But shortbread isn't difficult and I had plenty of time, so why not?

Yogurt and Mashed Berry Panna Cotta with Lemon Shortbread

Yogurt Panna Cotta

this makes two large or four small (to make small ones, just fill custard cups halfway) Panna Cottas . . . oh, and if you don't have custard cups you can use small coffee cups or teacups :)

1 cup plain full-fat yogurt
1-2 Tbsp sugar
1/4 tsp. vanilla
healthy pinch ground cardamom
healthy pinch ground cinnamon
a tiny pinch of salt
mixed berry mush (about 1/2 cup)
4 tsp. water
1 tsp. unflavored gelatin
4 black cherries, pits removed

Whisk together yogurt, sugar, vanilla, spices and berry mush in a small bowl until the sugar is dissolved. Taste and adjust the sugar content--I like mine just barely sweet (berries are sweet enough!)

Put the water in a very small saucepan and sprinkle the gelatin evenly over the top. Let stand for one minute to soften. Then heat over low, stirring, until the gelatin is dissolved.

Whisk the hot gelatin into the yogurt until combined.

In the bottom of each of four custard cups, place one halved cherry. Pour the yogurt into the cups. Cover the cups with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 1.5 hours (until set).

To unmold the panna cottas, run a thin knife around between the panna cotta and the cup, then dip the cup into a bowl of hot water for 30 seconds. Invert the panna cottas onto plates. They might take a moment or two to come out, or a little whacking on the bottom of the cup. :)

Serve with a single shortbread:

Lemon Shortbread

This recipe makes about 8-12 cookies.

1/3 cup unsalted butter at room temperature
1/3 cup confectioners' sugar
1/3 tsp. vanilla
pinch of salt
2/3 cups flour, plus more for rolling
grated zest of one lemon

Beat the butter, sugar, vanilla and salt until smooth (an electric mixer is best for this). Beat in flour (with electric mixer on low speed), mixing just until a dough forms. Stir in lemon zest.

Place the dough on a floured piece of parchment. With floured hands, gently roll into a 1.5 inch diameter log. Wrap tightly in the paper, twisting the ends to make a nice tight round cylinder. Refrigerate until firm, about an hour.

Preheat oven to 180 C (350 F). Unwrap the dough and slice it into 8-12 slices with a serrated knife. If it starts crumbling, let it sit at room temperature for 5-10 minutes before resuming the slicing. Arrange the cookies with at least an inch of space between them on a baking sheet lined with parchment.

Bake until lightly golden around the edges, about 15-20 minutes. Cool on the baking sheet for a couple of minutes before transferring to a wire rack.


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