Gettin’ Jiggy With It

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Cream, milk, gelatin, sugar. That’s it. That’s a panna cotta. Luscious, basic, pristine, delicious.

If only the rest of the world were that simple.

Not Jell-O shots, I promise

In my quest for the uncomplicated and my affinity for something summery, I found this dessert and knew I had to get down with it. The first time I made one was at my pastry internship at a restaurant where we cooked for an event at the Metreon. My chef served at least a hundred of her sweet basil panna cotta in little cups for guests, who promptly fell in love with its capability to wipe away June gloom.

Pretteh

At its core, panna cotta is easy to make and easy to eat. It is flexible, both in its jiggly nature and its ability to suit your every whim. Fill it with fruit, nuts, or cookies; swap out the milk for yogurt or melted ice cream; infuse the cream with coffee basil cinnamon lavender honey anything! Still on my Bollywood kick, I made a cardamom and brown sugar version and added in egg whites to give it the ethereal texture of kulfi. Farmer’s market plums made the dessert a done deal.

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While you guys are busy channeling your inner Will Smith with this dessert, I’ll be busy getting jiggy with this nug. He has way more swag than me.

Bruce the French Bulldog. Also known as Shorty Goldstein. Also known as boy magnet. Also known as the nug pug.

Just can’t sit.

Everything that the light touches is your kingdom, even the Tenderloin.

Panna Cotta with Macerated Plums (adapted from The Sweet Life)

1.25 tsp unflavored powdered gelatin
5 green cardamom pods, crushed
1.5 cups heavy cream
1.5 cups whole milk
1/2 cup brown sugar
Salt to taste
4 large egg whites

3 plums, chopped
2 Tbsp brown sugar

16 1.5-ounce plastic ketchup/Jello-shot cups

  • In a small bowl, sprinkle the gelatin over 5 teaspoons of cold water and set aside; it will turn into a gummy paste.
  • Combine the cream, milk, cardamom pods, and 1/2 cup brown sugar in a medium heavy saucepan and bring to a simmer over medium-high heat. Turn off heat, cover, and let sit for 15 minutes.
  • In the bowl of a stand mixer, whisk together the egg whites, salt, and 1/4 cup brown sugar. While mixer is running, gradually pour in half of the hot milk mixture to temper the whites (more on this technique here).
  • Pour everything back into the heavy saucepan and cook over medium-low heat, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon and scraping the bottom of the pan.
  • Cook until the custard is thick enough to coat the back of the spoon. Remove from heat. Whisk about 1/2 cup of the mixture into the bloomed gelatin until it dissolves completely. Add back into the pan and whisk together.
  • Pour mixture into another bowl and set over an ice bath, letting it cool until it comes to room temperature. Pour into ketchup cups or whatever molds you are using and refrigerate at least 6 hours or overnight. After 24 hours, the gelatin will not set any further.
  • Half an hour before serving, combine plums and 2 Tbsp sugar and let sit. Run a small knife around the outside of the cups and unmold panna cotta onto a small plate. Serve with a spoonful of plums.
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Getting Down With Being Brown

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The Festival of Colours, known as Holi in India,  is one of my favorite holidays. It signifies spring, a renewal of friendships and relationships, and a promise to let bygones be bygones as good triumphs over evil. During Holi, social norms don’t exist – we are all fish in the same sea of life swimming towards our futures, whatever they may be.

In case you didn’t notice, I have a thing for Trader Joe’s

It’s also a holiday where I get to don my freshest white tee and have it filled with color by the end of the day. It’s an opportunity to relive the  nostalgia of Berkeley, scarf down on greasy Indian food and a bottle of Jack Daniels, and belt out this song without a care in the world.

Before and After – I got into a fight with a tie-dye shirt and lost.

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While the actual celebration is far from clean, it inspired me to bake something that was fresh and that evoked the flavors of the homeland. This dessert is delicious for a not-too-sweet breakfast or as an afternoon pick-me-up. It also travels well, making it perfect to share with old friends and to build new relationships with. The cardamom allows me to channel my inner Indian (Inn-dian?), while the grapefruit allows me to hold on to the last few wisps of winter produce before I must start anew.

Saffron-vanilla ice cream from Ici – keeping it desi

Go ahead, Calcut-ta piece.

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Citrus-Cardamom-Yogurt Cake

2 eggs
1 cup yogurt (I used fat-free, but you don’t have to)
1 cup sugar
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1.5 cups flour
1.5 cups almond meal
1.5 tsp BP
1/2 tsp BS
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp cardamom
Zest from 2 grapefruits

  • Preheat the oven to 350° F. Line the bottom of a 13×9” cake pan with parchment paper and grease the sides.
  • In a large mixing-bowl, gently combine the yogurt, eggs, sugar, vanilla, oil, and grapefruit zest. In another bowl, sift together the flour, almond meal, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Add the flour mixture into the yogurt mixture, and blend together — don’t overwork the dough.
  • Pour the batter into the prepared cake pan, and bake for 25-30 minutes, until the top is golden brown and a cake tester comes out clean. Let stand for ten minutes, and transfer onto a rack to cool. Serve at room temperature with fresh fruit. In the photo, there are caramelized dates and sliced strawberries, but use anything you want. Well-wrapped, this cake will keep at room temperature for 1 week.