Berries and Cream

  • Wow, the month of August has flown by! Although I haven't posted much this month, I have made a few good things. I'll share two desserts that I like to make in the summer, both of which I made recently.

The first is a recipe for strawberry granita that was featured in Bon Appetit a few years ago. A granita is an icy frozen dessert, which is perfect for a hot day, like we have been having in Southern California lately. The best part is there is no special equipment required.

  • Strawberry Granita

  • 1 pound sliced, hulled strawberries (about 2 cups)
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 1/2 cups cold water
  • 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 1 cup chilled whipping cream (optional)

  • Puree strawberries, sugar, salt, water, and lemon juice in blender until smooth. Strain into 8x8x2 inch metal baking pan. Cover with foil and place in freezer. Stir with fork every hour until frozen, about 4 hours. At the four hour mark, scrape granita down length of pan forming icy flakes. Return to freezer. Simply spoon into dessert dishes when ready to eat. If using cream, beat whipping cream until firm peaks form. Divide cream among dishes. Spoon granita over and serve immediately. 

Note: Granita can be made two days ahead.

Serves 6

    The other recipe I would like to share is Panna Cotta. It is an Italian, custard-like dessert made with cream and set with gelatin. It only takes a few minutes to make, and it can be infused with a variety of flavors and eaten alone or topped with fruit, chocolate or other sauces. I've even made it with candied kumquats. My favorite way to make it is simply with vanilla bean and some macerated strawberries. It's the perfect dessert to serve to guests as it looks pretty and can be made ahead. Here is how I make it.

    Vanilla Bean Panna Cotta with Strawberries

    2 cups heavy cream
    1 cup whole milk
    6 tablespoons granulated sugar plus 1 teaspoon
    1 packet unflavored, powdered gelatin
    1 vanilla bean
    Pinch of salt
    3 cups strawberries, quartered
    1 teaspoon lemon juice

    Place the milk in small saucepan. Split the vanilla bean lengthwise and scrape the seeds. Add the seeds and the pod to the milk in the saucepan. Sprinkle gelatin over milk and let stand 5 minutes. Then place saucepan over medium heat and cook stirring until gelatin dissolves but milk does not boil. Add cream, 6 tablespoons sugar and salt and stir until sugar dissolves, about 2 more minutes. Remove from heat and let cool slightly. Pour through strainer into large liquid measuring cup (or anything with a spout as it make it easier to pour). Pour the strained mixture into glasses or ramekins. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until set, at least 6 hours.

    30 minutes before serving, combine the strawberries, lemon juice and remaining sugar. When ready to serve, remove the panna cottas from the refrigerator and top with strawberries.

    Notes: Can be made up to two days in advance. I usually put the panna cotta in pretty glasses so I can serve it directly in them, but, for a different and more sophisticated presentation, allow the panna cottas to set in ramekins. When ready to serve, dip the bottom of the ramekin quickly in hot water and run a parring knife around the edge of the ramekin. Invert onto plate and spoon strawberries over the panna cotta. 

    Serves 4


    For J

    My sister J is the artistic one the family. She can create art using any medium. Really. She works on movies as a job, but she can do anything that requires a creative eye. For my baby shower she sewed a huge baby quilt, and even though it was her first time quilting, it was perfect. I am amazed at how she can just decide to create something and do it. Look at this painting she did for me.

    I am not artistic at all, and I'm not even a particularly creative person. But, I can do one thing that she can't. Cook. She's getting better as she's gotten older and has had to cook for herself. Still, she doesn't enjoy cooking much of the time. So, she shares art with me, and I share food with her.

    J recently found out that she is allergic to gluten. I know that it is a trend right now for everyone to be giving up gluten, but she really is allergic to it. Luckily it is a trend right now, so there are a lot of options for her. I know that in baking you can substitute different types of flours for wheat flour thus making many things gluten free. I haven't tried any of that though, since lucky for me I can still eat wheat flour. However, I do look out for things that are normally made without flour. I recently saw these cookies on Martha Stewart's website and knew I would have to try them to share the recipe with my sister. J seriously loves peanut butter and chocolate, so I know she will like the flavor. Plus they are made without flour  are very easy to make. So, here you go J. Enjoy!

    Flourless Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies

    1 cup smooth peanut butter
    3/4 cup sugar
    1 egg, lightly beaten
    1/2 teaspoon baking soda
    1/4 teaspoon salt
    1 cup chocolate chips
    1/2 cup roasted, salted peanuts

    Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line two sheet pans with parchment paper or silpat. Stir peanut butter, sugar, egg, baking soda, and salt until combined. Stir in chocolate chips and peanuts. Scoop heaping tablespoons of dough onto baking sheets, and space cookies about two inches apart. Bake one sheet at a time until cookies are puffed and golden, about 12 to 14 minutes. Cool on sheet 5 minutes. Transfer to rack to cool completely.

    Makes 2 dozen. Store in airtight container for up to 3 days.