An unrivaled favorite in this house, I'm always thrilled when the peonies start blooming. The race is on to capture their unique & delightful flavor by making tons of jelly [see last year’s post for that recipe here,] custards, sorbet, & simple syrups before the blooms fade! This week, I will focus on an extra-special Italian dessert that is wonderfully enhanced by the addition of peony-- the Peony Panna Cotta.
The Panna Cotta is wobbly, creamy pudding that can be as extravagant or simple as you wish. Generally speaking, they are very likely to get the “OOOOH!” reaction when served, but are deceivingly simple to make. [Don’t you love when that happens?] They are naturally gluten-free & can even be tweaked to dairy-free or vegan by substituting agar agar for the gelatin & coconut or almond milk for the cream. Today, I am sticking to a classic version made with cream & gelatin-- & even using that cream to my advantage to enhance the look of our Peony Panna Cotta. Traditional recipes use a combination of heavy cream with milk or half & half to create a silky smooth texture, but often complain of the dessert separating into different layers. That separation is just what I am after here, as I will infuse the cream with our peony petals, giving it a soft pink color, & leave my half & half plain. The result, as seen in my pictures, is a beautifully two-toned final product. No extra work required for this-- the different specific gravities of the two liquids will settle into their own layers all by themselves [but look like you really put effort into it!] Let’s get started!
This seriously underused & under-rated garden gem is a favorite in our family -- We can't get enough! From savory sauces for pork loins to tart jams & desserts, rhubarb hits the mark. And, while she freezes like a champ, I am happy to share another way to make this taste of Summer last all year with my recipe for an old-fashioned Rhubarb Shrub, & of course a few zero-proof & craft-cocktail recipes to make with it!
Let me stop right there for a moment --I can feel a few of you out there going “What the heck is a shrub? Like a shrubbery?!” No! When I say SHRUB, I am not referring to your bushes! I am talking about culinary shrubs, sometimes referred to as drinking vinegars. Shrubs are the result of fruits/veggies/aromatics preserved by being acidulated with a combination of vinegar & a sweetener. Created as a way of preserving your harvest [& its vitamins] to store in the days before refrigeration, shrubs were incredibly popular in Colonial times. The result is a rather magical liquid that aids digestion, quenches thirst, & adds a deeply sweet-tart complexity to drinks & dishes that you'd be hard pressed to find elsewhere! There are quick shrubs & aged ones, where the natural fermentation process kicks into overdrive & creates even more probiotic, digestive support. On top of being wonderful for you, the flavors shrubs provide are outrageous & are being fully embraced by modern bartenders & at-home mixologists -- especially those looking to skip the alcohol, but keep the flavor in their drinks. The possibilities are endless & I am SURE I will dive more deeply into this in future posts, but for now--BACK TO RHUBARB!
Chervil [Anthriscus cerefolium]
This delicate, Spring herb may have you asking 'what's that?' when mentioned, but if you're a fan of French food, you are probably more familiar with it than you realize!
Here we will take a look into how to grow it & how to use it, along with some of our family’s favorite ways to enjoy it & a recipe for a tasty Warm French Potato Salad. Allons-Y!