5 February 2014

Lemon Panna Cotta for a Romantic Dinner …L'amore è nell'aria

Lemon Panna Cotta photo by Cooking Light
If dreary winter weather is getting you down, lift your spirits by adding bright, zesty lemons to your every day cooking. The new year is well under way. The East coast is in a deep freeze but thinking of Valentines Day and heading to tropical climates on Saturday for my daughters wedding has created a permanent smile on  face. My foodie obsession has always been lemon rather than chocolate despite the outpouring of love for chocolate this time of year. No matter whether it is sweet or savoury I am always tempted to surrender to the enticing texture of a lemon custard filling or a creamy avgolemono.

 We are so glad you have decided to join us once again for our Cooking Light Virtual Supper Club. This is a monthly event where 5 ladies and one gent in two neighbouring countries get together to create a delicious meal from appetizer to dessert with a theme in mind. We are now in fourth year and continue to share a love for Cooking Light magazine which has an emphasis on healthy eating and living. This is a team effort where we combine what Cooking Light readers like best...good food with great company!!!

This months theme is in honour of Susan of The Spice Garden and her wedding anniversary. She asked us to create a dish from the pages of Cooking Light with our favourite movie with LOVE in mind. My heart immediately went to Under the Tuscan Sun. With Italy always on my mind my thoughts drift to sun drenched villas bathed in golden yellow sunlight. Imagine walking amongst rolling hills lined with cypress tree soldiers, surrounded by ancient vineyards, olive and lemon trees with nothing but the sounds of  birds singing to interrupt your dreaming.
Lemon Panna Cotta - Photo Randy Mayor

In Italy, limoni are everywhere from handpainted ceramics to lemons at the fruit stand the size of baseballs. Besides being a fundamental ingredient in seafood dishes, lemon is one of the most popular sweet treat flavours as well with its place right alongside almond, hazelnut and chocolate. I am happy to celebrate the season from the nationally celebrated beverage Limoncello to its tart, citrusy flavour featured in biscotti, cakes and gelato. Around the More Than Burnt Toast kitchen lemons are as popular and widely used as simple spices like salt and pepper. I have embraced lemon juice and zest as a cornerstone in my love for Mediterranean cuisine. A little lemon goes a long way. 

The brightly coloured outer layer of citrus fruit, the zest, contains scented essential oils that impart a handsome flavour to dishes. When a recipe calls for strips of zest break out the vegetable peeler which works very well. But for fluffy, grated zest, try using my favourite kitchen gadget a micro plane zester. Years ago I remember watching an episode of Martha Stewart where she used a woodworkers microplane to zest her lemons. I am sure this is where the idea came from to create a microplane for cooking. Best invention yet in my humble opinion! 

When juicing your citrus to extract the maximum amount of juice, either roll your citrus fruit around on a flat work surface, pressing down firmly with the palm of your hand, or warm through gently by dropping into a pan of hot water, popping into the microwave for a few seconds, or even placing in a warm oven for a minute or two. I use the microwave method myself and there is never a drop of juice wasted.

Let's see what our group has conjured up for our love potion in honour of Susans wedding anniversary. 

Susan of The Spice Garden is reminded of the Disney classic Lady and the Tramp's pasta scene by making Chicken Puttanesca. We remember this animated movie as children and the sentiment of eating pasta together with the bonus of a gentle kiss has moved on over to other venues and movies as well. Ah so sweet to celebrate your 34th wedding anniversary Susan!!!

Sarah of All Our Fingers in the Pie makes a delicious Burrata and Apricot Appetizer for the movie Enchanted April. The movie is based on two Englishwomen who are bored with their lives and determined to get away from their homes and inattentive husbands. They find serenity in the countryside of the Italian Riviera. They rent a magnificent villa for a month sharing expenses with two unlikely companions, an austere widow and a bored socialite. At first, all is not kosher but their little hideaway holds a special magic where sparks ignite friendships and reminds the women to bring love back into their lives.

Jerry of Jerry's Thoughts Musings and Rants remembers  There is a Girl in My Soup and makes a delicious French Onion SoupHow fitting for a cooking blog is this movie where a television host of a popular cooking show, Robert Danvers played by Peter Sellers plays opposite Marion played by Goldie Hawn instantly deciding to get to her and "take over" before the groom, Jimmy has another opportunity.

Sandi of The Whistlestop Cafe Cooking channels SweetHome Alabama with a side dish of Brown Rice Shrimp Jambalaya. Who can forget Reese Witherspoon as sophisticated Melanie Carmichael, a rising New York clothing designer who is engaged to the city's most eligible bachelor. She has skeletons in her fashion-filled closet that include Jake -- the backwoods husband she married in high school who refuses to divorce her. Determined to end their marriage and sever all ties with her past once and for all, Melanie returns to Alabama. But home starts to tug at her heartstrings, and what she thought she wanted may not be what she wants at all.

For dessert I head for my wannabe Italian roots and remember Under The Tuscan Sun and make a sunny Lemon Panna CottaFrances Mayes entered a wondrous new world when she began restoring an abandoned villa in the spectacular Tuscan countryside. There were unexpected treasures at every turn: faded frescos beneath the whitewash in her dining room, a vineyard under wildly overgrown brambles in the garden, and, in the nearby hill towns, vibrant markets and delightful people. In Under the Tuscan Sun we explore the pleasures of Italian life and follow as she finds love.

**Lemon Panna Cotta**
from Cooking Light magazine (Marcia Smart 2007)
2 cups plain low-fat yogurt
1 cup whole milk
1/2 cup sugar
1 (2-inch) piece vanilla bean, split lengthwise
1 1/2 teaspoons unflavored gelatin
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice (about 2 lemons)

Spoon yogurt onto several layers of heavy-duty paper towels; spread to 1/2-inch thickness. Cover with additional paper towels; let stand 15 minutes. (if using Greek yogurt then skip this step). Scrape the yogurt into a medium bowl and set aside.

Combine milk and sugar in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat; stir well with a whisk. Scrape seeds from vanilla bean; add seeds and bean to milk. Cook 3 minutes or until sugar dissolves, stirring frequently.

Remove pan from heat. Remove and discard vanilla bean. Add milk mixture to drained yogurt, and stir until well blended.

Sprinkle gelatin over juice in a small microwave-safe bowl. Let stand for 5 minutes. Microwave at HIGH for 30 seconds, stirring every 10 seconds until gelatin dissolves. Stir gelatin mixture thoroughly into yogurt mixture. Pour about 1/2 cup panna cotta mixture into each of 8 ramekins or custard cups. Cover and chill at least 6 hours or overnight. Serve in cups, or invert onto individual plates.

You are reading this post on More Than Burnt Toast at http://morethanburnttoast.blogspot.com. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to the author/owner of More Than Burnt Toast. All rights reserved by Valerie Harrison.
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  1. What a perfect end to my romantic anniversary dinner, Val! Lighter than air citrus flavour and a smooth creamy finish ... thank you so much ! Stellar dessert! Have a wonderful time celebrating your daughter's marriage! Love is surely in the air and hopefully, you'll have sunny warm weather for all your ceremonies and parties! Abbia un viaggio meraviglioso!

  2. I have yet to accomplish a panna cotta. I love this recipe.

  3. I've been craving panna cotta all week, Val, and I love the sounds of this!! :-) I need to make it asap. :-)

  4. Refreshingly citrusy and delightfully luscious!



  5. Your lemon panna cotta is very impressive and perfect for Valentine's day. I love the simplicity of the presentation, so Italian.

  6. The dreary, winter weather has me turning to citrus. What a lovely sparkling dessert! It's not all about chocolate.

    1. I much prefer light, sparkling lemon this the of year Claudia..but I am not opposed to chocolate…wink:D

  7. I would feel no guilt enjoying this lovely dessert, Val. We have been trying to stay away from desserts for the last month and this light, lemony treat won't bother my conscience at all. Lemons are so good right now.

  8. Here in So Cal Meyer lemons are dripping from the trees. May be I'll start calling them Meyer Lemon Panna Cotta tress.

  9. I'm a big fan of panna cottas, Val. So many things you can do with them, so many flavors. Love the idea of lemon....light and fresh tasting, I bet.

  10. A dessert I have not yet attempted to make but the sound of the wonderful lemon flavor makes me want to try it soon. It looks so cheerful too :)

  11. I love panna cotta but have never made it with yogurt. Brilliant idea and I love the lemon flavor - lemon is like sunshine on a dreary day to me too!

  12. I am on the lemon "side" as well. It just feels so fresh. Moreover many zesty lemony desserts give me the impression that are not that heavy... I easily fool myself :) Panna cotta is of my favorite dessert, never had it in this version - I can't tell you how much I would love to eat it this right now!

  13. I have Meyer lemons in the refrigerator just waiting for me to use them. They were just so beautiful I couldn't resist them...just like a burst of sunshine on a winter day! This panna cotta is beautiful :)

  14. Panna cotta is one of those dishes I expect to only be able to get at a restaurant...who knew it was so DOABLE to make at home! Love this lemony twist.

  15. I LOVE panna cotta but I've always been a purist until I saw your beautifully styled lemon panna cotta. I must make this or I won't be happy. :)

  16. Amo las panacotta y esta se ve magnìfica y absolutamente deliciosa,buen blog ...hugs,hugs.

  17. what a perfect ending to a romantic meal--light, refreshing, delicious!

  18. I love lemon, berries and chocolate.... but not together LOL I can pass on the other 'sweet' tastes. I planted a Meyer lemon tree from seeds my sil sent from Hawaii. I have great hopes!
    Have a wonderful, warm, sunny wedding!

  19. Panna cotta is one of those desserts that tends to elude me. I have trouble getting it right. That doesn't mean I don't intend to keep trying though.

  20. Panna cotta is one of my favorite desserts as it is so light. Your lemon version is a refreshing way to end a meal.

  21. I love panna cotta, and I love lemon. In fact, when faced with a dessert menu, I always select either the lemon dessert or a vanilla one. Somehow chocolate is never my first choice. I will have to try this one. It looks wonderful.

  22. Hi Val, a good idea to warm up the lemons in the microwave before squeezing. We have been squeezing a lot of citrus here, making fresh orange juice every day, sometimes more than once a day here in Spain. Valencia oranges are so juicy, Sevilla oranges are thicker peel and great for marmalades and candied peel.


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