Last week was the anniversary that marked the passing of my dear grandma, “Goodie.” I hold a special place in my heart for dear Goodie, with her proper British accent and her uncanny ability to kick my ass at Scrabble into her 90s. She liked to say things like “Oh, heavens no, dear.” She liked exploring new religions and philosophies. And she liked dessert. Perhaps because she was from England and I seem to recall her enjoying very English desserts like custard and trifle, this panna cotta struck me as something Goodie would have loved.
Panna cotta is a classic Italian dessert. It’s often, but not always, thickened with gelatin, an effectively nourishing ingredient that contains many amino acids. If possible, try to find grass-fed gelatin from a reputable source, as most commercial gelatins are heavily processed and full of nasty hormones, antibiotics, and other unsavory stuff. I get mine at the local health food store. It’s not kept with the food products, but with the vitamins and supplements for hair and nails.
Panna cotta can be made from any number of ingredients, but one thing most have in common is simplicity. The hands-on time to get this from kitchen to dining room is minimal—all you need is a little patience to let it set. This version with Greek yogurt is thick and creamy, yet still light and airy. The sweetness level is low, but it’s still prevalent enough to make this an ideal dessert for those who want to indulge without crashing after a sugar rush or dealing with other side effects from heavily sweetened desserts. In fact I ate this for breakfast. Happily, I might add.
Grilling fruits brings out their natural sweetness and lends notes of caramel from the charred sugars. Choose ripe but firm fruits for best results. I chose a medley of peach, plum, and figs for my panna cotta, but you can grill any number of fruits, depending on what’s available and in season. Try apricots, nectarines, strawberries, bananas, pineapples, pears, or mangos. An assortment of fresh fruit or berries would be an equally welcome substitution, I’m sure.
Greek Yogurt Panna Cotta with Grilled Summer Fruits
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 10 minutes, plus 12 hours inactive time
¼ cup water
1 tablespoon gelatin
1 cup heavy cream
¼ cup honey, or to taste
3 cups Greek yogurt, full-fat if possible
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 peaches, cut in 6 wedges each, pits removed and discarded
3 plums, cut in half, pits removed and discarded
9 figs, cut in half
- Pour water in a small bowl. Sprinkle gelatin over it to soften, about 5 minutes.
- Heat cream in a small saucepan until just barely simmering. Add honey. Whisk in the gelatin-water mixture.
- Place yogurt in a large bowl. Whisk the heated cream into the yogurt, then add vanilla. Beat with a whisk until very creamy. Pour mixture into small dishes or ramekins that hold about ½ cup each. Chill in the refrigerator until fully set, about 12 hours or overnight.
- When ready to eat, preheat the grill to high. Lightly grease the grates with an oil-soaked paper towel. Grill fruits until charred and tender but not overcooked or mushy.
- Serve chilled panna cotta with warm grilled fruit.
To choose your organically grown and fresh ingredients wisely, use the following criteria:
- chemical- and hormone-free meat
- wild-caught fish
- pasture-raised, organic eggs
- whole, unrefined grains
- virgin, unrefined, first-press organic oils
- whole-food, unrefined sweeteners
- pure, clean, spring water
- sea salt
- raw and/or cultured milk and cream products