Going through the motions of the daily grind, beginning with the same flavors and same approaches everyday, everything starts to taste the same after a while. It’s simply so easy to get lost in the same cycle of cookies and cakes, cookies and cakes, that all the other options slowly fade from memory. Plated desserts? Part of another life time, from a whole different skill set. That so much time has elapsed without something more spectacular on these virtual pages is a downright shame, and now awoken by spring and craving a positive change, something that I plan to correct.
Starting slow, this fairly humble panna cotta, composed of rich coconut milk and complimented by thai-inspired aromatics such as lemongrass and galangal is an easy composition with complex flavors. Though mine was garnished with excess matcha coating leftover from my peppermint patties, molded into leaf shapes, it was ultimately agreed that a plain fresh mint leaf would have made for a more pleasing, light finish. Successful plated desserts don’t have to call for the most complicated preparation possible, after all!
Topped off with pineapple cubes sauteed lightly in brown sugar and surrounded by a generous pool of raspberry sauce, each plate remains very light and refreshing, while nicely satisfying the craving for a sweet ending. Perfect for serving after a heavier meal, this would be ideal to whip out after any spring brunch, or either Easter or Passover (yes, it is “accidentally” pasedich!)
Lemongrass Panna Cotta:
1 13.5-Ounce Can Coconut Milk
2 Cups Water
2 Stalks Fresh Lemongrass
1/2 Cup Fresh Mint Leaves, Loosely Packed
Zest of 1/2 Lemon
1/2 Cup Granulated Sugar
2 Teaspoons Agar Agar Powder
1 Cup Chopped Pineapple, Fresh or Frozen and Thawed
1 Tablespoon Dark Brown Sugar, Firmly Packed
1/2 Teaspoon Ground Galangal or Ginger
Pinch Freshly Ground Black Pepper
Fresh Mint Leaves, for Garnish (Optional)
In a medium saucepan, combine the coconut milk and water, and set over medium-low heat. Whisk well, and set aside.
To extract the most flavor out of your lemongrass, you’re going to have to get rough with it; Don’t be afraid to show it who’s in charge. Take the flat of your knife to the side of each stalk, and bash the living daylights out of them. Then, chop them up into pieces as small as you can manage- But don’t drive yourself crazy. They’re very fibrous, so it will be difficult to get the stalks very fine. Next, lightly mince the mint leaves, and slice of the lemon zest in long strips. Add all of these aromatic ingredients into the coconut milk mixture. Bring the liquid up to a boil, clamp on the lid, and then turn off the heat. Allow your flavorings to infuse for at least 30 minutes, or up to an hour.
Set out 6 – 8 4-ounce custard cups or ramekins to prepare for the finished dessert. If you wish to unmold them and serve your panna cottas as photographed above, lightly grease the insides, or leave them alone if you plan to serve the panna cotta right out the dishes.
Once properly infused, strain the mixture through a fine cheesecloth, and return the liquid to the pot. Mix together the sugar and agar in a separate dish first to make sure that the agar is fully dispersed throughout the sweetener, before pouring both into the pot. Whisk thoroughly, and turn the heat up to medium. Stir occasionally until the liquid comes up to a boil, and then cook, stirring vigorously, for another minute.
Pour the hot, liquid panna cotta into your prepared dishes. Let cool out at room temperature for a full 2 hours before transferring them into the fridge, to prevent syneresis. Wait until fully chilled before serving.
For the pineapple topping, simply combine all of the ingredients in a small sauté pan, and cook over medium heat, stirring often but gently so as not to break up the pineapple pieces. They should take just 5 – 10 minutes on the heat, simply to dissolve the sugar and soften up the fruit a bit. Let cool, and either serve on top of the panna cottas while still warm, or chilled.
To complete the plated dessert, tip out on panna cotta onto a plate, and top with a spoonful of sautéed pineapple. Pour a ladleful of raspberry sauce around the base, and finish it off with a sprig of mint on top. Repeat with the remaining desserts.
Serves 6 – 8