Every so often there are trends that tell us what is good for us. Remember a couple of years ago when the health buzz word was cruciferous vegetables? And while we might love our broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage and Brussels sprouts, there was no glamour there, no pizzazz. You just couldn’t make them look cute.
Lately the trend has been toward antioxidants, and imagine this: they are found in things that are delicious: blueberries are among the hot and trendy health foods now.
Well, heaven knows I want us all to be healthy. I’ve recently made this dessert several times. One friend, subjected to it at a couple of different dinners, said he could eat it every night. You may not go that far, but it is extremely easy and quite tasty.
“Panna cotta” is Italian for “cooked cream.” It probably originated in the north of Italy, where cream is used in cooking more than in other regions. But now it’s fairly common all over. Usually served with fruit, or sometimes with a caramel or chocolate sauce, it is quickly made.
The wine for this should be something fairly light, but it should be fruity and of good quality. I used an inexpensive sangiovese (the grape of Chianti) from California. You can reduce the wine in advance. Then bring it back up to a simmer and add the blueberries an hour or two before serving.
If any of the blueberry sauce is left over, crush the blueberries in it and simmer for a few minutes. Cool and use it over pancakes or ice cream another time. You could even put it over your morning oatmeal or cream of wheat. It is a health food, you know!
PANNA COTTA AI MIRTILLI
For the blueberries:
1 bottle sangiovese or other fruity wine
½ cup sugar
4 sprigs fresh rosemary
1 pint fresh blueberries, rinsed and picked over
For the panna cotta:
2 packages unflavored gelatin
3 tablespoons cool water
3 cups heavy cream
½ cup sugar
1 pinch salt
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup crème fraiche or heavy cream
Bring the wine, sugar and rosemary to a simmer in a non-reactive saucepan. Simmer uncovered until reduced by slightly more than half. Remove from the heat and add the blueberries. Set aside, covered, at room temperature for up to three hours.
Put the water in a wide flat bowl, like a soup plate. Sprinkle gelatin over the top and let set for at least five minutes. There should be no dry spots. If there are, sprinkle a few drops of water over the top to moisten completely.
In a medium saucepan, bring the heavy cream to a simmer. Add the sugar, salt and vanilla. Stir until the sugar has dissolved. Remove from the heat and add the gelatin. Whisk until all the gelatin has dissolved. Let cool slightly, then add the crème fraiche or sour cream. Pour into individual serving dishes. Clear glass tumblers or wine glasses look particularly nice. Cover and refrigerate until set, at least four hours and up to 24 hours.
When ready to serve, remove the rosemary sprigs from the room temperature blueberries. Spoon over the panna cotta and garnish with additional fresh rosemary sprigs. Serves 6 to 8.