It has been so hot lately that the last thing I want after dinner is a warm piece of pie, or anything with a "molten" center. What I do want is something light and refreshing, preferably made with fresh summer fruit.
This recipe is just that: a delicate panna cotta with a cap of juicy-tart raspberry sauce, surrounded by a frothy cape of espresso foam. It doesn't take long to make, but you will have to allow a few hours of chilling time. My suggestion is that you whip it up early in the morning, and pop it into the refrigerator so that you'll have something sweet to look forward to at the end of a warm summer day. Be sure to use the best raspberries you can find: they're all over the farmer's markets right now, so you can't possibly miss them... unless you're going to the market to shop for a date instead of actual food. I can't blame you there, but hey: at least this way you'll have something special to eat, even if the cute girl with the tomatoes in her hands doesn't call.
If even this sounds like too much work, you can always just whip up a bowl of cream and dip fresh fruit directly into it. There's nothing like simple and delicious in the middle of July. And there's nothing like feeding pieces of fruit (or bites of vanilla-flecked panna cotta!) to the hottie who happens to be sitting beside you.
Raspberry Panna Cotta with Espresso Foam
1/2 pint raspberries, plus a few extra for garnish
1 tablespoon fresh lemon zest
1/4 cup sweet wine (a late harvest Sauvignon Blanc would be ideal)
1/4 cup cold water
2 1/2 teaspoons unflavored gelatin
3 cups heavy cream
2/3 cup sugar
1/2 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
2 shots espresso
1/8 cup heavy cream
Mint sprigs for garnish (if desired)
Grated chocolate for garnish (if desired)
In a small bowl, crush the raspberries and lemon zest together with the sweet wine until a thick, juicy sauce is formed. Pass through a fine-sieve strainer to remove the seeds. Set aside.
Pour the water into a very small saucepan, and sprinkle the gelatin over the top. Let it stand for about 3 minutes to allow the gelatin to soften. Heat over low heat for 3 to 4 minutes, stirring with a wooden spoon, until gelatin is thoroughly dissolved. Remove pan from heat.
In a heavy-bottomed medium saucepan, combine the cream and 2/3 cup sugar. Scrape in seeds from vanilla bean; add the bean. Bring to boil over medium heat, stirring often. As soon as the mixture comes to a boil, remove from heat and add gelatin mixture. Stir until blended.
Set out four ramekins or custard cups, and spoon just enough of the raspberry sauce into the bottom to cover the bottom surface. Tip the cup to ensure an even layer. Pour the cream mixture over the top, stopping about 1/2 inch from the surface of the cup. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and chill until cold. Chill at least 2 hours, or up to overnight.
Just before serving, make the espresso foam: whisk together the espresso and heavy cream until a light, foamy consistency is reached. Don't be too aggressive here, or you'll end up with whipped cream!
To remove the custards from their containers, dip them one at a time into a bowl of hot water for 3 to 5 seconds. Run a thin knife around the edge of each ramekin and quickly invert over the center of a serving plate. Surround with espresso foam. Garnish with extra raspberries, grated chocolate and mint sprigs, if desired.
Makes 4. But only serves 2. You'll both want two, trust me. If not now, later.