Sunday, August 30, 2009


- Victor Hugo from Les Misérables, 1862

The rose is red, the violet's blue,
The honey's sweet, and so are you.
Thou are my love and I am thine;
I drew thee to my Valentine:
The lot was cast and then I drew,
And Fortune said it shou'd be you.
- Gammer Gurton's Garland, a 1784 collection of English nursery rhymes

Violet and blackberry, the colors of love.

Ah, romance! Fluttering hearts and breathy sighs, knowing glances and fingertips brushing quickly against the other’s, barely touching. Flushed cheeks and lowered eyes, we feel the electricity even when no words are spoken.

We express our love, our passion, in so many ways, by so many signs. Smooth silk sliding down over hips, swishing against her legs as she moves. Jewels in velvet boxes pushed silently across white tablecloths, golden champagne flowing into long-stemmed glasses with a gentle sigh, the bubbles frothing up and over the rim. Boxes of chocolates all tied up in shiny ribbon, bouquets of roses wrapped up in crisp white tissue paper, red for passion, white for innocence and love. Fistfuls of tiny violets, their perfume heady and sweet, their color the color of love.

My husband wines and dines me, prepares me tagines and daubes, buys me jewelry and fine Italian shoes and whisks me off on romantic weekends, gastronomic soirées. The flowers he fills my arms with are never the ordinary, the expected, rather they are blood red dahlias, lush, fragrant peonies in oh so many shades of pink and deep purple tulips, plump and mysterious, the color of aubergines. Platefuls of oysters (I am his pearl) and bowlfuls of delicate, aromatic clams, sunny lunches and cozy dinners, my man knows how to please me, knows just what makes this woman smile. The way to a man’s heart, they say, is through his stomach. This man knows that food means more to me than almost anything else.

And I, in turn, express my love and desire by offerings of sweet and savory. Candles lit, table dressed, dainty morsels set before him, sweet ambrosia. I offer him the choicest morsel, he slides his fork between his lips and I wait expectantly, breath held, for his reaction, a murmur of bliss, a groan of pleasure. His delight transports me to a better place, joyful rapture. I glance at him starry-eyed, thrilled with his enjoyment, the gusto with which he eats, a spoonful, a slice, this is how I offer myself to those I love, the best I have to offer.

Panna Cotta is a favorite treat, his guilty pleasure. Creamy and rich, smooth as silk, sensuous as it shimmers on the spoon and slides over the tongue. As delicate as an angel’s touch, as light as air, Panna Cotta warm’s his heart as sure as my hand placed on his cheek. Knowing just how much he loved it I stayed away from this luxurious, elegant dessert for years, afraid of not living up to expectations. On any restaurant menu, he was sure to order it, the satisfaction wavering with the quality of what was placed before him; sometimes rubbery, sometimes floury, not often pleasing. His most recent disappointment made me realize that it was up to me to create for him the best, the most exquisite Panna Cotta, a sure sign of what I was willing to give of myself. For each perfect bouquet of flowers he ever placed in my arms, for every jewel he slid onto one of my fingers, this gift was for him. Romance in a slender glass, the color of faded roses or pale pink champagne, the scent, the taste of sweet sugar-kissed violets, a jewel-dark blackberry coulis adding depth and richness, the full flavor of the fruit bringing out the best of the Panna Cotta, like a fur wrap draped over a delicate satin gown.

Placing the spoon next to the empty glass, he smiles and takes me in his arms.


3 cups (750 ml) cream, or a combination of cream, light cream/half-and-half and whole milk*
2 tsps (1 package, 1/4 ounce, about 8 g) unflavored gelatin
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup (100 g) sugar, 1 tsp replaced with 1 tsp violet sugar

* I used 1 cup (250 ml) each heavy cream, light cream and whole milk

In a medium, heavy-bottomed saucepan, place 1 cup (250 ml) of the cream mixture and sprinkle the gelatin on top. Allow to sit for 5 minutes. Turn on heat to low and allow to gently heat and cook for a couple of minutes until the gelatin dissolves completely.

Stir the teaspoon of violet sugar into the white sugar (from which you have removed 1 teaspoon). Add the remaining cream mixture and the sugar blend to gelatin mixture and continue to heat gently, just until sugar dissolves; add vanilla. This should take a few minutes. Allow to heat thoroughly.

Carefully pour the mixture into glasses or small bowls and chill for at least 6 hours, preferably overnight.

Serve chilled with Blackberry Coulis spooned over the top. Decorate with berries.


9 oz (250 g) fresh blackberries
2 tsps sugar

Clean and pick over the berries. Remove and set aside the prettiest, most perfect berries, less than half of them.

Purée the remaining blackberries then push them through a sieve to remove the solids, leaving you only the pure liquid. To the liquid, add the 2 teaspoons sugar and stir until dissolved.

It was upon a summer's shiny day,
When Titan fair his beams did display,
In a fresh fountain, far from all men's view,
She bathed her breast, the boiling heat to allay;
She bathed with roses red, and violets blue,
And all the sweetest flowers, that in the forest grew.
- Sir Edmund Spenser from The Faerie Queene, 1590


♥♥♥Ria♥♥♥ said...

A very romantic couple I must say! :)

Loved the pannacotta & the blueberry coulis :) The clicks are really good!

Emily said...

I haven't ever come across violet sugar, but I can imagine it tasting very good, especially with the blackberries you've paired it with. It reminds me of a grown up sophisticated version of some sweets I ate as a kid! And probably much nicer, too :)

Ilva said...

What a lovely dessert, the violet touch is brilliant!

The Purple Foodie said...

I love the sensuous description of panna cotta. I've not made it until now for similar reasons.

I have never heard of violet sugar and am so curious as to how it'd taste!

La Table De Nana said...

Again I reiterate you write so well:) Now I see how romantic and well suited a couple you are:) How sweet..The armloads of flowers etc..

Good for both savor differently yet the same..Fun to read of happiness.
I covet your amethyst sugar:)

Debbie said...

Oh my goodness...Jamie, you could write a romance novel based on your life and I'd buy it and not come up for romantic <3
Next you'll tell me that you tango across your living room and then he dips you....what a lovely blog sounds like everyday is Valentines Day for you :)
Oh yeah, and panna cotta sounds yummy as well!

Hilda said...

In the Shhh, don't tell Deeba vein, half of those macarons I made back when I first made macarons had chocolate and violet ganache fillings, so methinks if we're going to make chocolate and you like violet, that should be one of the fillings we make. And very romantic indeed...

Barbara Bakes said...

After reading this post I am a bit jealous. Although my husband did buy me some carnations at Costco and he said, "not bad" after he liked my chocolate zucchini bread. Maybe I just need to buy some violet sugar and gives this recipe a try!

Jamie said...

@Barbara Bakes: Go for it, girl!

@Hilda: Yes Yes Yes!

@Ilva: Grazie mille!

girlichef said...

This is definitely a romantic post :) I'm loving that violet sugar...yum! Dreamy, just dreamy.

Rosa's Yummy Yums said...

Your Panna Cotta look so delicious! A refined tasting dessert!



Fuji Mama said...

Aaaaw, your post makes ME fall in love with your husband--what a romantic! Lucky for Mr. Fuji, I love him to pieces. Mmmm, the panna cotta looks divine!

Julie said...

Wow, great post, and fabulous looking panna cotta! makes me wish we still lived where blackberries grew wild...

buffalodick said...

What a writer you are! Romantic, and being treated pretty good because of how you are! Sounds like you spoil him a bit too- Bien, cheri!

Mary said...

What a lovely dessert. It sounds as though you two have a "thing." That's nice to hear in this crazy world of ours. I love your recipe.

doggybloggy said...

what an absolutely perfect panna cotta - wow - luxurious! ...and romantic!

Jenn said...

Lovely post. It put a smile on my face.

Intereting about the violet sugar. That's a first I've heard of it. I'm gonna have to try that pronto!!

Katy ~ said...

Well done. I was caught in your breathlessness and wanted you to write more, more, more.

The panna cotta is a such a perfect ending to this romantic chapter.

Cinnamon Girl aka Reeni♥ said...

What a sweet post!! And a heaven-sent dessert!

Amy said...

I've never had panna cotta. *GASP* So, until I make it, or visit a restaurant that offers it, I will just stare at your lovely pictures. and drool a little.

Irina @ PastryPal said...

Sounds like quite the romance you have going on!

Panna cotta is one of my all time favorite desserts, too. I almost always order it when I see it on a menu and have that slump of disappointment with the first bite. You recipe ratios and the photo texture look like they'd make the silkiest panna cotta I could imagine. I'm getting all dreamy and wistful myself.

Sophia said...

I won't lie...I sort of...scorn at romance? All the typical and cliched "breathlessness" and etc...but reading your post, it made my heart prick. I so long for this kind of relationship! with such marvelous eats, too!

MeetaK said...

always a winner - if you love this you will love the strawberry panna cotta with balsamic vinegar redcution and the saffron panna cotta on WFLH too. i am intrigued by the violet sugar!

Deeba @Passionate About Baking said...

You'll have me eating out of your hand if you write any more romantic tales...LOL!! Obviously with a charmer like you & a man like him, life is pretty 'happening'. Beautiful post as always, great great write up...lady you got a flair, I say it again, & you know it!If I make tiramisu for you, will you make this for moi...with violet sugar. Don't finish the sugah!!

5 Star Foodie said...

Oh, I love this! The panna cotta looks heavenly! I'm imagining how wonderful the flavor of the violet sugar must be! Where did you find it?

Jamie said...

@5 Star Foodie- I stumbled upon small sachets of both violet sugar and sugar-coated violets in a specialty candy shop here in Nantes. I believe they also sell violet syrup. Must try that next!

TheKitchenWitch said...

This is so gorgeous! That is, indeed, love on a plate.

Mowie @ said...

Oh yum... oh wow! The violet sugar, the blackberrys, the panna cotta - so inspiring and looks so absolutely delicious! I'll have to make something similar for the blog soon =)

Katherine Aucoin said...

Very romantic and sexy. The pannacotta is perfect and I'm loving the violet sugar.

asiangrrl said...

Jamie, I need a cigarette after reading this entry. It was sultry, sensual, and sinfully delicious. The blackberry panna cotta looks impossible gorgeous, too. All in all, a very pleasing post.

Joanne said...

I have never had panna cotta before but it seems like the perfect dessert for a romantic evening. That blackberry coulis looks delightful!

Big Boys Oven said...

just lovely, lovely, so silky, yet so smooth and creamy too, hey girl, that's my type of dessert! :)

Sippity Sup said...

Ahhh, romance. But shy?? Really....? GREG


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