Panna cottas in myriad variations have been tested and tasted by cooks across the food blogosphere; when you have something so simple it lends itself beautifully to experimentation. Consider the merits of this eggless custard: It has, in a sense, a neutral base. Its list of ingredients is scant. It’s barely cooked.
How is it so dang good?
In the case here, the dessert is greater than the sum of its parts. Thick, luscious with tang Greek yogurt takes most of the credit, and the cream is no slouch. Sweet, but not too, you won’t reel from sugar shock after a few bites.
I am rather fond of crushed cardamom, and have found that flecks of this complicated spice pair nicely with the yogurt. It adds somewhat floral, somewhat citrusy dimensions, with heat like ginger. It doesn’t take much in my mix–a little dances a long way across your tongue.
When I was called on to make a fancy sort of dinner for a visiting group of Bill’s business managers, this was my choice to complete the meal. It was something that I could prepare quickly in the morning, and pour it into individual serving pieces to chill. In the past, I’ve put the mixture into white ceramic ramekins, but I wanted a more elegant look. (Another beauty of the recipe is that it can be poured into whatever you like!)
A search through my china cabinet turned up these pretty cut glass cordials.
They once belonged to my grandmother on mom’s side, and had been passed on to her. A couple of years ago, mom was paring down her stuff and called, “I never use these and I think you might.”
We don’t drink liqueurs in my household, but I loved their look and their family connection. I felt certain that I’d put them to good use at some point. I stashed the eight crystals in my cabinet, and promptly forgot about them. Two years of waiting patiently on the china cabinet shelf, the cordials finally got to come out and play.
After placing the filled stemware into the fridge to chill, I turned my attention to the topping. I wanted something fruit based. Although I had local strawberries in the house, I was already using them in a salad for the dinner. Then I recalled a gorgeous jar of marinated apricots that I had seen on Chez Danisse’s blog….inspired from a posting by Erin of The Endive Chronicles. Those might be lovely spooned over the dessert.
Her recipe is very simple-dried apricots, sea salt, good olive oil, lemon zest and thyme. The only issue for me is that this recipe takes several days of sitting to soften and manifest flavor. Even though I had all the ingredients, I had only hours.
Nonetheless, it was enough to spark this cooked sauce. While it is indeed a departure from Erin’s–I substituted orange for lemon, added a little sugar and cardamom, remembered the small bag of candied ginger in the pantry—it’s quite delicious in its own right. I so enjoy how all these blogging connections inspire creativity, and look forward to making her recipe soon.
In the meantime, the Greek yogurt panna cottas, bedecked with the jewel-like sauce, made a stunning yet soothing finish to the dinner party.
And, there were a couple of extras, treats to spoon into the following afternoon.
Cardamom Scented Greek Yogurt Panna Cotta
1 package Gelatin
2 T. Water
1 cup Cream
1/2 cup Sugar
1 t. Vanilla
1 t. ground Cardamom (if you have whole pods to grind yourself, so much the better!)
2 cups 2% plain Greek Yogurt (1 17oz. container is fine)
Sprinkle gelatin into a bowl, and stir in the water. The gelatin will soften and clump, but don’t worry, it will smooth out in the brief cooking that’s to follow.
Gently heat the cream in a saucepan. Stir in the sugar, vanilla, cardamom, and finally, the gelatin. Stir steadily with a wooden spoon until sugar and gelatin has completely dissolved throughout the mixture. Do not let this boil.
When all is incorporated, remove from heat. Stir in the Greek yogurt. Taste for spice–add a little more cardamom if that suits you. Its flavors will continue to bloom in the cream.
Pour into your individual serving pieces. Cover and chill for at least 3 hours.
Apricot Sauce with Cardamom and Candied Ginger
1/2 c. Dried Apricots
2 Clementines, or Mandarin Oranges, for juice and zest
3 T. Sugar
1/2 c. Water
a splash of White Wine (opt.)
2 T. Candied Ginger
2 T. Olive Oil
Simmer dried apricots in a saucepan with sugar, water, the juice of the mandarins (or clementines, or an orange) and their zest. I like the zest in thin peels. Add a splash of white wine, if you like. Simmer for 10 minutes or so; the apricots will soften—as well as the zest—and the liquid will begin to thicken. Add cardamom, 1/2 teaspoon perhaps, and bits of candied ginger. Finish with olive oil. Cool.