Vanilla Panna Cotta with Blueberry Compote

Desserts and Sweets, Recipes

The holiday season is upon us and you know what that means — it’s time for a few easy-to-make yet impressive-looking desserts that you can add to your repertoire for wowing guests! Case in point: before I stumbled upon this article on The Kitchn, I had never even considered making panna cotta at home. And now that I’ve seen the light, I could not imagine spending $14 on it at a restaurant ever again (unless there are some really special flavor combinations going on…). It’s that easy and oh so versatile to customize to your liking. I had some blueberries in the freezer from our visit to a pick-your-own blueberry farm in Santa Barbara over the summer, but you are welcome to use any seasonal fruit to pair with the silky smooth pudding. Just a slight note, this basic recipe involves gelatin and refrigeration to set, unlike the traditional Italian recipe which uses egg whites and is baked in a bain marie.

Panna Cotta Ingredients:

1 1/2 cups milk

1 1-ounce envelope of powdered gelatin (or 4 gelatin sheets, bloomed in ice water)

1/3 cup granulated sugar

1 vanilla bean, scraped

1 1/2 cups heavy cream

Set up a double boiler if you have one, or bring a small pot of water to a boil and nestle a heat-safe bowl (Pyrex, for example) over it. Add milk and sprinkle the powdered gelatin over the surface. Let sit for 1-2 minutes to bloom the gelatin. Add the sugar and vanilla and whisk well to completely dissolve the sugar. It should have a silky texture with no grittiness. Heat the mixture until it is barely simmering. Pour in the cream and continue to cook until the mixture has warmed to room temperature. (If it is too hot, just set aside to cool a bit before pouring into the molds.) Pour into ramekins or serving dishes. Refrigerate for at least one hour or until set. The texture will be wobbly and much more delicate than jello. Serve cold.

Blueberry Compote Ingredients:

2 cups frozen blueberries, divided

3 tablespoons water

2 tablespoons honey

Dash of ground cinnamon

In a small saucepan, heat 1 cup of blueberries with the water, honey, and cinnamon. Simmer over medium-low heat until the fruit starts to break down, about 5 minutes. Using the back of a spoon, gently mash the berries into a coarse puree. Add the remaining 1 cup of blueberries and cook for another 3-5 minutes or until the whole berries are warmed through and the mashed berries have formed a sauce-like consistency. Serve warm.

The blueberry compote also tastes great as a topping for ice cream, pancakes, waffles, even steel cut oatmeal! Once it has cooled, I transferred the leftover compote to a glass jar and kept it in the refrigerator for about a week. It could probably keep longer if you’re into canning jams and whatnot, but the compote is so delicious that it will magically disappear quite quickly!

I know it’s been a long time since we’ve posted a recipe on this blog, but I hope you enjoy this two-for-one. We did not include step-by-step photos this time, but trust me, it’s just THAT easy. If you try either of them at home, please let us know what you think!

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our-growing-edge-badgeThis post is part of the monthly link up party Our Growing Edge. This event aims to connect food bloggers and inspire us to try new things, and I can honestly say that my life has changed for the better knowing now that panna cotta is just so easy to make!

This month is hosted by Linda at The Orange Bee.

Cheers!

Il Cortile Ristorante – Paso Robles

Central Coast, Food Adventures

2014-06-22 19.11.22

On our recent trip to Central Coast Wine Country, we were overwhelmed by our dining options in downtown Paso Robles. After all, where there’s good wine, there’s good food, right? But in our search for dinner plans, Il Cortile stood out with its homemade pastas, stunning dishes, and (because first impressions matter) clean and modern website.

Upon our arrival, we were pleased to find that our first impressions were just the beginning of a wonderful experience. It was a warm summer evening so we elected to dine al fresco on the inviting semi-enclosed patio. Our server Andrew was friendly, and somewhere along the way, we learned that a surprising number of Paso residents (including himself and the Chef Santos MacDonal) are LA transplants!

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Even after having partaken in an entire afternoon of wine tasting, we could not resist yet another opportunity to sample the Central Coast, so I had the Rose flight while Martin chose the Italian flight to start our meal.

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We love grilled octopus so despite other tempting offerings such as mozzarella di bufalo, coppa con burrata, and carpaccio di anatra (duck), we went with our first instinct: grilled octopus with fresh vegetables marinati in a spicy vinaigrette. The octopus was charred to perfection and oh so tender. It was served over a hearty bed of cannelini beans and tomato, reminding us that we are indeed in an Italian ristorante.

We mentioned wanting to try two different entrees and sharing so that we could sample two of their famed dishes. But without any indication or request, our server went ahead and asked the kitchen to split the plates so that we could each have our own portions, beautifully plated. So thoughtful!

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Following our antipasti was our primi of pappardelle al aragosta – squid ink pasta with a lobster ragu finished with salmon roe. Remember when we said we love grilled octopus? Well we LOVE squid ink pasta. Guaranteed, at least one of us will order it given the option. The lobster ragu was rich and packed with generous bits of lobster meat, while the roe (which I believe was actually tobiko, or flying fish roe, as it was much smaller than the distinct size of ikura) added a welcomed touch of saltiness. The pasta itself, made in-house, had the distinct texture that only fresh pasta has, and it was cooked just until al dente. Absolute perfection, we enjoyed every bite of this. (Editor’s Note: I noticed this dish is no longer listed on the current menu on the website and has been replaced with a lobster ravioli dish instead.)

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Our secondi was a very special dish, one that everyone will tell you to order if you come here but never seems to make a permanent appearance on the menu: osso buco – overnight-braised pork shank with parmesan risotto. It was customary to serve me easier-to-daintily-eat slices and chunks of braised meat while the gentleman got the rest of the bone-in shank in all its glory. What they didn’t know was that this lady has a strong stomach and ended up devouring some of her date’s portion as well, it was just so good! Quick research on the history of osso buco tells me that this was a more “modern” preparation with its tomatoes and mirepoix, but modern or traditional, it was an impressive dish that felt decadent and yet comforting at the same time. Don’t miss it!

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For dessert, Martin was in the mood for something less sweet and made a special request for an affogato – hot espresso poured table-side over vanilla ice cream. I opted for the vanilla panna cotta which was garnished with fresh strawberries and a berry coulis. I loved being able to actually see the flecks of vanilla bean, and the flavor was delicate. Delicious!

From beginning to end, we had an amazing experience. Be sure to include Il Cortile in your next Central Coast adventure!

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Check out Il Cortile – ilcortileristorante.com

608 12th St
Paso Robles, CA 93446

See their Yelp reviews here!

The Factory Kitchen – Downtown Los Angeles

Food Adventures, Los Angeles
fusilli alla amatriciana

fusilli alla amatriciana

Hidden away in the heart of the newly coined “Arts District” that is transforming the grungy old industrial neighborhood of Downtown Los Angeles is, believe it or not, a trattoria-style Italian restaurant that just opened in 2013. In a dining room that stays true to its concrete column and exposed ducting “look,” The Factory Kitchen’s menu features a variety of traditional dishes including a selection of handmade pastas.

The Dining Room

The Dining Room

Martin had been here for lunch with his coworkers before and he raved about so much that we decided to dine here for a belated Valentine’s Day meal.

focaccina calda di recco al formaggio - pizzata

focaccina calda di recco al formaggio – pizzata

Starter: focaccina calda di recco al formaggio – pizzata – crescenza, san marzano tomato, capers, anchovies, oregano. Martin suggested that we share a focaccina to start and he let me pick one. Lured by the prospect of anchovies and capers, I selected the pizzata. What is a focaccina? It was unlike anything I’d ever had, but I suppose the best way to describe it would be a very thin, very flaky and puffy flat-bread pizza. The pizzata was lightly sauced with a San Marzano tomato puree and decorated simply with a pair of anchovy loins. But the beauty is in its simplicity. It was so amazing I almost didn’t want to share.

gnocchi malfatti

gnocchi malfatti

Entree (M): gnocchi malfatti – ricotta semolina dumpling, lamb sugo. I’m a big fan of ragu-type meaty sauces (and I don’t mean the stuff in the jar), so I had a feeling the lamb sugo would be a good choice. The ricotta gnocchi were very fluffy but also very cheesy. Martin, who is already a huge fan of potato gnocchi, really enjoyed this dish!

fusilli alla amatriciana

fusilli alla amatriciana

Entree (A): fusilli alla amatriciana – long corkscrew pasta, pork jowl, onion, spicy tomato. I needed only to spot the words “pork jowl” and I knew this would be the dish for me. There’s something inherently comforting about the flavor combination of pork fat and tomatoes, and this tender, fatty pork jowl did not disappoint. Also surprising were the long (VERY LONG) corkscrews; they were like rotini on steroids. So delicious I only wish there were more on the plate!

pannacotta

pannacotta

Dessert: pannacotta – meyer lemon curd, feuillitine crunch, candied zest. Another one of my buzzwords is feuillitine. Did I ever tell you about the time Martin and I made our own crepes dentelle? Now that was an adventure, but a story for another time. This dessert was love at first sight. Silky vanilla panna cotta topped by a thick layer of lemon curd… the combinations of tart and sweet, smooth and creamy… it was heaven on a spoon. I’m also a big fan of candied citrus, so I thought the zest was a great touch.

A wonderful meal, fabulously attentive service, and a taste of Italia in the heart of the industrial district… definitely swing by and check out The Factory Kitchen!

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Check out The Factory Kitchen: thefactorykitchen.com

1300 Factory Place, Suite 101
Los Angeles, CA 90013

See their Yelp reviews here!

Tout Sweet Patisserie – San Francisco, CA

Food Adventures, San Francisco

My apologies for the delay of this post! Life has been absolutely crazy for us, but we’re back to blogging. I can’t believe it’s been exactly one month today since Tout Sweet had their official grand opening.

Smack in the middle of a Macy’s department store

We were so excited when we heard that Yigit Pura of Top Chef: Just Desserts was finally opening up his dream bakery in his hometown of San Francisco the weekend after Labor Day — the same weekend we were planning to be in SF for the Late Night Alumni show at Ruby Skye and the Ghirardelli Chocolate Festival. Call it destiny! Tout Sweet Patisserie is situated on the third floor of the Macys in Union Square and is just the most adorable storefront. Cute IKEA-fied cafe area, beautiful display of plated desserts, piles of pastries, colorful rows of macarons, and of course, very friendly staff working behind the counter.

This photo does not do justice to the alluring display.

We wanted to try everything but ended up with 5. It was our first stop of the day, so what follows was technically… the breakfast of champions.

Florence – citrus vanilla panna cotta with grapefruit Campari gelée

The one that stood out to me was the Florence — a citrus vanilla panna cotta topped with a grapefruit Campari gelee. It turned out to be Martin’s favorite – so much so that we ordered a second one before we left! The panna cotta was creamy and not too sweet, and the gelée added a slightly bitter note. Wonderful flavor profile!

Petit Tout Sweet – a layered chocolate cake with fluffy chocolate mousse

We also got a slice of their namesake cake – the Petit Tout Sweet, a flourless chocolate cake layered with chocolate mousse and topped with a dark chocolate glaze. The layers were decadent and light at the same time, and the glaze… oh the glaze… It had a uniquely velvety texture and we both agreed it was our favorite part of the cake.

Chocolate chip cookie sprinkled with sea salt

Martin inquired the girl behind the counter about whether they had a basic chocolate chip cookie. If that’s your thing, try the one here at Tout Sweet — it’s topped with fleur de sel and has generous chunks of quality chocolate. Our only regret was not asking for it warmed up so we could enjoy that fresh-out-of-the-oven experience.

St. Honore – three profiteroles glazed with caramel

Very pleased with our first round of selections and not yet ready to leave, we asked for a suggestion for a light and interesting dessert. They immediately suggested the St. Honore, essentially a cluster of three profiteroles sitting atop a triangle of puff pastry, dipped in hardened caramel filled with vanilla custard and served with vanilla Chantilly creme. We were given very good advice also – don’t be afraid to dive in! Taking a bite of a whole cream puff and its base of phyllo yielded a wonderful crunch enhanced by the crystallized cracking glaze. The gold flakes were an interesting touch but really didn’t add anything in terms of flavor.

Colorful macaron display

Our fifth dessert that morning was a second Florence. Yup. It was that good. However, we brought home some very colorful macarons (my favorite was the MeMe – the cookie part was a swirl of hot pink and neon green!). Unfortunately we can’t speak to the flavors of the macarons as we gifted them to our friends and family as souvenirs.

Nutella brioche – I should have gotten more than just one!

I also grabbed a lone nutella brioche that had called out to me as soon as we walked in. Despite a long journey being jostled around in my backpack as we trekked up Lombard Street (yes, on foot), it survived the flight back to LA and still tasted delicious! It’s like a chocolate croissant taken to the next level. Plus, it’s adorably round in shape and really, chocolate hazelnut spread makes everything better!

We went the second morning after they opened, missing the crowd of media and paparazzi (yay!) as well as the presence of the owner Yigit (boo!). While the prices were a bit steep (especially if you order as much as we did!), we felt the quality and the flavors were well worth it. Definitely a go-to spot for the next time we return to San Francisco! If you haven’t checked it out yet, please do — they’ve had a month now to iron out the kinks, plus I hear they’ve build upon their menu and now feature savory brunch-y items as well.

By the way, take a look at the back of the staff shirts if you see someone turn around :) We had a “you know you’re nerds when…” moment when we were surprised and excited to see sucrose!

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Check out Tout Sweet Patisserie: toutsweetsf.com

Macy’s Union Square
170 O’Farrell St, 3 Fl
San Francisco, CA 94102

See their Yelp reviews here or follow them on Twitter @toutsweetsf!