Sunday, April 26, 2015

Savoring the Season: Peach and Vanilla Cream Panna Cotta

The doors of peach season are on the brink of being thrown wide open.  Florida peaches have already made their debut but the Georgia and South Carolina peaches in May will be when the party really starts.

There is no better way to showcase summer peaches than to prepare this absolutely delightful
panna cotta- literally translated is Italian for "cooked cream" A simple blend of cream, milk and sugar with a texture and flavor similar to custard but with a lighter feel on the palate.  An incredibly easy dessert to prepare that provides a perfect foundation for summer peaches to take front and center.

Fresh summer peaches are chin dripping juicy and it is a crying shame if you don't take advantage of enjoying this fruit when they are in season.


Peach and Vanilla Cream Pan Cotta
Serves 6
Recipe from Imperial Sugar


Ingredients:
1 cup whole milk
1/3 cup extra fine sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 tablespoons dark brown sugar
2 1/4 teaspoons unflavored gelatin
2 cups heavy cream
2 cups peaches, pitted and diced
1/4 cup water

Directions:
1.  Pour milk in a saucepan and sprinkle gelatin over top.  Allow to rest for 5 minutes while the gelatin blooms and forms a wrinkled layer on top of milk.

2.  Over medium-low heat (do not simmer or boil), add sugar and stir.  Once the sugar has completely dissolved, about 5 minutes, whisk in cream and vanilla  until well incorporated.  Remove from heat.

3.  Divide 1 cup of diced peaches between 6 small glasses or large glasses.  Pour the cream over leaving 1-inch of space at the top of the glass.  Transfer glasses to the refrigerator and refrigerate for 3 hours to overnight.

4.  Before serving, combine the remaining peaches, brown sugar and water in a saucepan.  Bring to a boil then reduce to a simmer and allow to simmer until the water has reduced by half and has formed a syrup, about 8 minutes.  Spoon on top of each panna cotta and serve.

Enjoy!

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Weeknight Madness: Pasta Fagioli (Italian Bean and Pasta Soup)

Pasta Fagioli or as it sometimes called Pasta "Fazool" is an Italian style peasant soup which includes two inexpensive ingredients pasta and beans.  You just need to add a few readily available ingredients  and you have a delicious, healthy and satisfying soup.

What I love about this soup is it is forgiving.  A little less of this, a little more of that, it's all good.  A
 key ingredient for complexity and depth of flavor is to add a small piece of Parmesan to the simmering stock (A wedge of Parmesan lasts forever wrapped properly in the refrigerator).

I have made this soup with a variety of ingredients over the years and have never been disappointed. The recipe below is a great foundation for a wonderful soup. Don't hesitate to experiment.  Add a little pancetta, roasted chicken or green it up with spinach or kale.  Either way, you are going to love it.

This is a great weeknight soup easily prepared and served in under 30 minutes. You can prepare a batch for freezing, serving a crowd or enough for a table of two.



Pasta Fagioli
Serves 4


Ingredients:
3 Tablespoons Olive Oil
3  garlic cloves, chopped
2 large carrots, chopped
2 celery stalks, chopped
1 medium onion, chopped
2 teaspoons dried basil
2 teaspoons dried oregano
14-ounces chopped, crushed or pureed tomatoes
1 queart chicken stock
2- 14 ounce cans Cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
Parmesan rind (optional)
1-1/2 cups small pasta
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
Chopped parsley for garnish

Directions:
Heat olive oil in a medium (6-quart) Dutch oven.  Add onion, celery, and carrots. Cook until almost soft.  Add the garlic and cook an additional minute.  Add basil and oregano.

Add stock: add beans, Parmesan rind, and tomatoes.  Bring to a simmer (about 15 minutes).

Add pasta.  Season with salt and pepper.  Cook until pasta is al dente (about 10 minutes).

Add a grating of Parmesan cheese to each bowl and chopped parsley.

Serve and enjoy!