October 23, 2011

Panna Cotta with Fresh Berries

This is a traditional and simple Italian custard that is light and easy to prepare. You can make it ahead of time and serve it with fresh berries. I served mine with homemade mixed berries sauce flavored with a dash of raspberry wine. Yummy!

Ingredients: (Adapted from Secrets From My Tuscan Kitchen by Judy Witts)
1 quart half (4 cups) half and half (or heavy cream)
1/3 cup sugar (½ for sweeter)
1 tsp. vanilla extract or paste
6 Tbsp. iced cold water
2 envelopes gelatin (4 ½ tsp)
8 custard or ramekins (lightly oiled with vegetable oil)
1. Add sugar and cream in a saucepan and cook over medium heat to dissolve the sugar. Once the sugar has dissolved, remove from heat and add the vanilla extract (paste).\
2. Sprinkle gelatin over the cold water in a large bowl and let stand for 5 minutes.
3. Pour the warm milk mixture over the gelatin and stir until the gelatin is completely dissolved. Spoon and divide the into ramekins. Chill in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours until firm.
4. To serve: run a small knife around the edge of custard and unmold onto serving plate and garnish as desired.
Tips: Another alternative idea is to pour Panna Cotta mixture into dainty teacups or fluted wine glasses. This allows you to serve them in glasses without unmolding. You can add color to the mixture before pouring it into molds. Decorate with fruits.
Printable Recipe

October 9, 2011

Root Cellar Soup with Smoked Ham

Fall is nearly here and this reminds me of Halloween, the spooky month of October. The neighbors had already started with the Halloween decorations of scary ghouls, spiders, and carved pumpkins. It also means that it's time to put away the summer clothing’s and think about warm hearty soups. This brings to mind a soup that is my family’s favorite. It is made with root vegetables: turnips, carrots, leeks, onions, and rutabagas. I've added another root vegetable, rutabaga. If you like turnips you'll love rutabagas is it has a mild bitterness that is balanced with a sweet earthiness. Hope this coming fall brings you much warm and a season of joy.
Ingredients: (adapted from Bon Appetit, Dec-94 issue)
¼ lb smoked ham, cut into small cubes
½ stick butter (¼ cup)
3 chopped leeks (use white and pale green parts only)
½ white onion, chopped
3 medium sized turnips (peeled and chopped)
1 rutabaga (peeled and chopped)
5-6 cups low-salt chicken broth
3 bay leaves
3 sprigs fresh thyme (or ½ tsp. dried)
1. Melt butter in a heavy saucepan over medium heat. Add chopped ham and saute until it beginning to brown. Remove with a slotted spoon and drained off any excess fat into a bowl.
2. Add carrots, leek, onion, thyme and bay leaf and stir until onion and leeks are translucent. Add in broth, turnips and rutabaga and bring to a simmer. Cook until vegetables are tender about 30-35 minutes.
3. Remove bay leaves, and thyme if using fresh ones. Puree soup in small batches in a blender when it is cool enough to handle. Stir in the ham. (Soup can be made a day ahead and chill in the refrigerator)
4. Bring soup to a simmer, thinning with more broth if necessary. Season with salt and pepper. Ladle soup into warmed tureen or bowls and serve with toast or freshly made bread.
Printable Recipe