Monday, November 15, 2010

ORGEAT PANNA COTTA WITH MIXED BERRY JAM

MAGAZINE MONDAY and a TALE OF THE STRANGE & UNUSUAL


Opposites attract? Of course they do. My husband and I have so much in common, our sense of risk and adventure, our tendency to shun all extraneous human contact and huddle together unsullied by the outside world, our passion for art and food and books and travel and history. Same sense of humor, same critical eye, same dreams and aspirations (mostly). But where opposites come into play, we do often part ways and on one very important point never the twain shall meet. Eating. Oh, don’t get me wrong, we both love to eat, are both fascinated by flavors and textures, ingredients and perfection. We both love to discover new cuisines, new restaurants, new wines. But we split right down the middle when it comes to the unknown.

You see, my husband has a culinary sense of adventure that bypasses even mine. The odd and the unusual intrigue him where they make me hesitate. The completely unknown draw him like a moth to the flame while I shudder and run. Yes, of course, we always order our favorite dish at the same restaurants every time: we go to Félix for the best Steak Tartare in the world, tender chunks of steak – no ground hamburger for us, thank you very much, the perfect balance of flavors, rich and luxurious, tangy with mustard and the bite of capers, the snap of onion and as peppery as you please. And served with fabulous hand-cut fries, thick and meltingly smooth on the inside, crispy and salty on the outside. In the mood for a döner kabob? We always head straight for the same stand. But he has a taste for culinary adventure that makes me shiver. If he sees something on a menu with an unusual name or a strange main ingredient, he invariably orders it. As the waiter strolls away I’ll lean over and ask, “what is it that you ordered?” and he’ll casually shrug his shoulders and say “I don’t know. I’ll see.” Traveling through foreign lands he will press his finger against the page of the menu when our order is taken, rarely if ever asking for precisions, and take his chances, all in the name of curiosity. Market and even supermarket visits find him dumping armloads of canned and packaged goods into our basket, each one stranger and more curious than the next, because he wants to try whatever is strange and uncommon. Or unknown. Or he will proudly place one of these selected items on our kitchen table and exclaim, delight glowing in his eyes, “I have to try this!” Ooooh, not me, thanks! I prefer the tried and the true or, well, at least the recognizable and the known. And he’ll taste. And he’ll eat and drink whatever he’s purchased and whatever he’s ordered. And only when it is gone, clean plate club, will he comment.


And this is how we ended up with a bottle of Sirop d’Orgeat. JP truly hates to go grocery shopping. Oh, not the market; if it isn’t crowded he loves marketing. No, I’m speaking about supermarkets, hypermarkets, those huge enclosed spaces, sometimes of dubious hygienic quality, filled with disgruntled, harried customers, couples or families oblivious to anyone or anything around them, huge, lumbering shopping carts that invariably find themselves being pushed into the back of your legs, and row upon dizzying row of consumer greediness and waste, all of those items that have little or no gastronomic or nutritional value whatsoever but are merely there to tempt the buyer into spending his or her hard earned cash on something that one could and, according to my husband, should do without. The glaring overheard lights, the lack of fresh air and the sometimes zoo-like cross-section of human life absolutely drives him mad. He’s been known to abandon nearly full shopping carts in the center of supermarkets all across France and simply walk out and go home. I’ve seen him break out into a sweat, break out into hives and break out into the worst humor since Frankenstein while standing in one of these supermarkets. I, on the other hand, simply adore these meccas of surprise and delight. I can spend an inordinate amount of time combing through the housewares section, I love seeing what new flavors of this product or that has appeared on the shelf, I love the ethnic and foreign foods and I absolutely love the satisfaction of coming home and being able once again to fill up my cupboards and refrigerator. So those Saturday mornings when I can drag him (kicking and fighting and complaining) on one of these twice-monthly shopping excursions, he will hand me over the shopping cart and the list and wave me off, saying “I will come and find you after I have found and chosen 5 strange and unusual things.” And he will wander off into the distance, singing to himself, happy in this contest he has created for himself, safe in his own private bubble.


Today, I am hosting Magazine Mondays for my wonderful friend Ivonne of Cream Puffs in Venice. For years and years, magazines have been our luxury; too expensive to subscribe to all those that we love, our magazine purchases have been limited to train stations and airport terminals, our guilty pleasure, reading material for a long voyage. But last year I took the bold decision to subscribe to the French Saveurs Magazine (and soon to be joined by the American Saveur), and both JP and I love them! I have made it a point to cook or bake at least one delicious thing from each issue, if not more. And strangely enough, a recent issue of Saveurs magazine had two recipes using Sirop d’Orgeat, Orgeat Syrup. JP drinks ice cold glasses of water spiked with Orgeat Syrup all summer long and simply loves the almondy flavor. I have never tried it. I selected for my entry for this week’s Magazine Mondays a Panna Cotta flavored with Orgeat Syrup and served with a Quick Fruit Jam from the July-August 2010 issue of Saveurs.


This is one fabulous Panna Cotta! We are Panna Cotta freaks; okay, to put it more politely, we are Panna Cotta connoisseurs. We adore it. But once too often we have eaten a rubbery or a floury Panna Cotta in this restaurant or that and so I decided to start making it at home. And Panna Cotta turns out to be one of those elegant, sophisticated, luxurious desserts that is surprisingly simple and quick to make. This recipe from Saveurs is simply one of the best I have ever made, silky smooth texture, it slides over the tongue like a cloud leaving in its wake a delicate sweet cream flavor kissed by almond thanks to the Orgeat Syrup. Topped with this quick and simple mixed berry jam – I used a half cup of frozen blueberries and raspberries that I had left in the freezer in place of the magazines recommended summer strawberries - and the tang of the very berry mixture was fabulous spooned up and eaten with the delicate panna cotta. This is most definitely a dessert to try. I will now use this basic Panna Cotta recipe and try it with other flavored syrups. Although, I may stay away from anything strange and unusual my husband may happen to suggest.


And here who has joined me for this week’s edition of Magazine Mondays:

Lynn of I’ll Have What She’s Having made Candied Lemon Slices from the March 2005 issue of Martha Stewart Living.

Tina of Life in the Slow Lane at Squirrel Head Manor made Beef Stroganoff from the March/April 2010 issue of Cook’s Illustrated.

Allyson of Retorte made Asian Pork Burgers with Hoisin Mayo from her latest issue of Food Network Magazine.

Mary of bonbons et chocolat.com made Boston Cream Cupcakes from February 2009 issue of Martha Stewart Living.

Stacey of Views From My Window made two recipes this week : Spiced Lemon Cake and (wow!) a Peanut, Caramel and Chocolate Tart, both from the October issue of Martha Stewart.

Jan from Kitchen Heals Soul made an Unusual Celery and Pear Bisque from the November 2010 issue of Bon Appétit.

Sue from Couscous & Consciousness made Olive & Herb Fish Parcel from the August 2004 issue of ABC Delicious Magazine.

Thanks to all of you for cooking along with Magazine Mondays! So thrilled I could host this event that I love participating in. Thanks, Ivonne!

Please visit their blogs and see what delicious delights they have cooked up! And please hop over to Ivonne’s Magazine Monday page and see how you too can cook with us on Magazine Mondays, too!


PANNA COTTA AU SIROP D’ORGEAT, CONFITURE DE FRUITS EXPRESS
Orgeat Syrup-flavored Panna Cotta with Quick Mixed Berry Jam
From July-August issue of Saveurs

Serves 4.

For the Panna Cotta:

2 cups (500 ml) heavy cream (UHT is perfectly fine)
2 Tbs + ½ tsp (35 g) sugar
2 Tbs Orgeat Syrup
1 tsp (4 g) powdered gelatin

Place the heavy cream, the sugar and the syrup in a medium saucepan. Sprinkle the powdered gelatin over the top and gently stir it in with a fork or whisk. Allow to sit for 5 minutes to soften the gelatin. At the end of the five minutes the gelatin will look like tiny yellow translucent splotches on the surface.

Place the saucepan over low heat and slowly and gently whisking, allow the mixture to heat up just to the boiling point. Watch carefully as this only takes a few minutes. Once it starts to boil (it may just foam around the edges), remove from the heat and, whisking, make sure that the yellow spots have disappeared completely: this means that the gelatin has completely dissolved.

Very carefully pour the hot liquid into 4 serving glasses (I use a soup ladle). Cover the glasses or bowls with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator – ideally over night – to firm up.

If using frozen fruit for your Quick Berry Jam, place the berries in a bowl to defrost. Once defrosted, place the bowl in the refrigerator overnight so they are ready for cooking about a half an hour or so before serving the Panna Cotta.

Before serving, prepare the Mixed Berry Jam:

½ cup total frozen fruit and the juices that have accumulated from defrosting *
2 – 4 tsps sugar
1/4 tsp vanilla
Squeeze of lemon juice

* I used half frozen blueberries and half frozen raspberries

I played this part by ear, or rather by taste. Saveurs calls for 250 g fresh strawberries, 1 cup (200 g) sugar, 1 lemon and 1 split and scraped vanilla bean but as I had no fresh berries nor did I choose to use a precious vanilla bean for this, I made do with what I had and I am glad I did because it was fantastic!

Place the defrosted berries and their juices in a small saucepan with about 2 teaspoons of granulated sugar, a dash of vanilla and one small squeeze of lemon juice. Cook slowly over very low heat, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, until all of the juices have cooked down and the jam is thickened. You can leave it a bit more on the liquid side if you like. Add more sugar to taste along the way, if desired. Once cooked to the desired consistency, simply remove from the heat and allow to cool to room temperature before dividing between the Panna Cotta glasses. I topped each Panna Cotta with only a tablespoon of the jam as I didn’t want to completely drown out the very delicate flavor of the Panna Cotta and it was perfect. The rest of the Mixed Berry Jam I used to top some of the Riz au Lait I had made the day before (recipe to follow soon).


47 comments:

browniegirl said...

YUMYUMYUM!! This looks absolutely divine. That one photo with the spoonful scooped out would be mine please! Lovely post Jamie. Always so good to learn another side to your relationship with JP...I love that he is adventurous! I am a bit like him but maybe not AS brave...my hubby is totally unadventurous. I really do need to make panna cotta again. I love the stuff...hugs and thanx for a great post. Sorry I was too late to enter xx

Rosa's Yummy Yums said...

Those panna cotta look so delightful and pretty! A refined dessert.

I am like your husband. The unknown attracts me like a moth to the flame.

Cheers,

Rosa

sunita said...

in our house, it's me who's the adventurous one when it comes to food, Dinesh makes up for it when we are outdoors :-)

Very pretty panna cotta Jamie, will have to make some soon :-)

Pierce said...

Yo Jamie - nice to meet you! I too am glad you hostied because I did not know about your blog. LOVE the old photos and your post. My husband and I are much like you guys. Same sense of humor, we are hermits excpet for the contact we must have to make a living . haha

Love your panna cotta!

Sasa said...

I'm embarassed to admit that when I was cooking for an English family in France, part of my job was supermarket shopping and they said they'd never met anyone who took so long...hehe.

Scrappycook said...

I've actually never made panna cotta - but this recipe looks divine! I may just have to try this one.

Soma said...

This is probably my favorite way to have panna cotta - thick fruity jam. I love the intense color of the fruit and contrast with the white.. perfect pair!! yes the opposites - I am the adventurous one, at least when it comes to food, in trying and cooking.

Barbara Bakes said...

I fell in love with panna cotta on our trip to Italy. Sounds like I'd better get my hands on some Orgeat and give this one a try!

Nancy Baggett said...

Your blog is just lovely! I'm sure others have said that but I have to chime in, too. The photos are particularly delicious.

Thanks for dropping by and explaining why supermarkets keep churning their products. As I said, I am just paranoid enough to think they do it to make me nuts! But your explanation makes perfect sense.

Jamie said...

@Nancy Baggett - Oh you are deliciously funny! And I probably said that to my husband - that it was done to drive me crazy - which probably led him to explain commercially why it is done but your reasoning is funnier! And thanks so much for the kind flattery and the visit!

ABowlOfMush said...

These look soooo delicious!! Wow!

Wandering Coyote said...

Hi Jamie! Thanks for the link and for hosting this week.

I have issues with panna cotta...I don't like the texture at all. I have never heard of orgeat syrup either. I'll have to look it up!

You have a really beautiful blog; I'll be bookmarking you for sure. I'm not commenting much anymore anywhere, but I do read.

Ananda Rajashekar said...

Stunning pictures and heavenly pannacotta loving it!

Couscous & Consciousness said...

Hi Jamie - what a great post - loved reading all about the eating and shopping habits of you and your husband. In our household I am definitely the adventurous eater (though I'm not in the same league as your husband - I have my limits), my partner is the "picky" (actually read "very picky")eater, which makes for some interesting culinary challenges. We both love a trip to the supermarket though :-)

This panna cotta sounds wonderful - I've never made my own panna cotta, so I obviously need to try this. Have never come across orgeat syrup though (and I'm pretty sure I won't be able to get that here), but I love the idea of an almond flavour, so I will see what I can find for a substitute.

Thanks for the linking me and a great round-up.

Sue :-)

Sara@OneTribeGourmet said...

OOH BABY!!! Panna Cotta looks Fabulous!!! I'm the adventurous one in our family.. I love Thai, Japanese, Vietnamese cuisines and hubby will ONLY try shrimp pad thai...he needs a lecture from JP! :)

creampuff said...

Jamie! Wow! I loved this post and I can totally relate to your husband's disdain for "supermarkets". I can't stand them either. Thankfully, in Toronto, we still have a few smaller, more family-oriented food stores where you can find all sorts of ingredients from all over the world. It's the kind of place that still has a butcher that actually butchers the meat there and the people know your name when you go in. Anyway, I've never heard of "orgeat" syrup but I am ingrigued. And of course I absolutely love panna cotta ... thanks so much for hosting. You're a doll!

UrMomCooks said...

Love ur story! At our house my husband only tries new things when I disguise them like something he already knows! And the line he is famous for saying goes something like this, "Well, it would be good if I liked that sort of thing..." Aaarrgghh!!! (But he has many other lovely qualities!) The panna cotta looks luscious!

Nina Timm said...

Must be one of my favorite desserts, love the creamy velvety texture it leaves in my mouth!!

sarah said...

I am a mix of both of you- on one had I love exploring new culinary possibilities, especially while traveling on the other sometimes I don't want surprises, I want the taste of home. I do hate supermarket shopping and much perfer the interaction of outdoor markets (as you may have guessed already)Your panna cotta looks heavenly.

Jamie said...

@UrMomCooks : Oh you made me laugh out loud! My son eats nothing new ever, it has to be something he recognizes as on his list of what is edible. Once in a while he tries something new and his answer is the same as your husband's "It might be good if I liked this sort of thing!" ARGH is right!

Jamie said...

@creampuff: Thanks, darling Ivonne. It was fun and thanks to you I've met some great new friends!

Jamie said...

@Sunita: Welcome back, sweetheart! Mwah! Love you and glad you are well.

Conor @ Hold the Beef said...

I love the contrast in colours between the panna cotta and the jam.

I'm also intrigued by your husband's daring nature when dining abroad... I want to know what crazy things he's been presented with :)

Deeba PAB said...

I am a 100% panna cotta freak too sistah...and I love love love this combination of colours and flavours! WOW...
Now what is orgeat syrup? Always on the exotic front bella! Yay for adventurous JP.Like Vin, but not like moi! I NEED PANNA COTTA...love the picture with the spoonful...YUM!

Jamie said...

@Conor @ Hold the Beef: This has nothing to do with HIS personal choice, but he did tell me that once in Morocco he was handed a bowl of warm walnut oil (as he was the guest of honor) and had to drink the whole thing, refusing to do so would have been the ultimate insult!

Jamie said...

For all of you who have asked : Orgeat Syrup was orginally a syrup made from Orge or barley, sometimes with the addition of ground almonds. Today it is made from bitter almond extract or almonds, sugar and rose water or orange-flower water. It is a sweet syrup which my husband uses likes grenadine or any fruit syrup, adding it to flavor ice cold water as a refreshing sweet summer drink.

Liana @ femme fraiche said...

hahaha you're story is absolutely hilarious! I love to try new and unknown things as well...so I'm on your husband with that one...but on your side...the supermarket is my happy place:):)

Heavenly Housewife said...

I think its great that your hubbs is so adventurous, I bet it makes you even more adventurous that you thought you'd be. I love it how when ther are opposites in a relationship, one person's strengths cover for another's weaknesses :).
Beautiful panna cotta.
*kisses* HH

Lael Hazan @educatedpalate said...

Your photos, your stories; and your recipes! Put them together and you create the perfect blog. Gorgeous.
In our family we are lucky, we are all willing to try new things.

Jamie said...

@Lael @educatedpalate : I have read all about your girls' adventurous palates and admire you and Giuliano for instilling the passion for food and flavors. Is it good luck or your great teaching? Only one of my sons was ever adventurous like that.

Lorraine @NotQuiteNigella said...

Just fabulous Jamie! The way you described you and your husband is similar to mine and I in a way. But he loves to try daring food like worms etc. It's the boy in him I think ;)

Jamie said...

@Lorraine : OMG worms? Not even sure JP would try worms... I should ask him!

Cake Duchess said...

Gorgeous panna cotta Jamie. Ewww...rubbery panna cotta is not good:) I like to be adventurous too. You sound like an amazing couple! Xx

Heather Davis said...

Ugh I am so annoyed with myself. I baked some biscuits from a magazine and took pics but haven't got round to posting it. Otherwise I would have included them in your links! Nevermind. Best intentions and all that. Your panna cota looks gorgeous. I have never made it before but might have to try now!

Sanjeeta kk said...

Love the jam out there. Beautiful recipe. Nice to have dropped here, lovely site. Best wishes.

Sarah, Maison Cupcake said...

Mmmm yummy this looks like my kind of dessert. I have loads of blackberries at the moment so I must consider doing something similar.

I don't know about magazine mondays yet but I read a lot of magazines so it's bound to be my kind of thing!

Jamie said...

@Sanjeet KK: Thanks so very much and it is always a pleasure to see you here!

@Sarah MaisonCupcake : LOOK! http://lifesafeast.blogspot.com/2009/08/les-bleuets-sont-bleus-les-roses-sont.html

Just for you!

Lana said...

Jaime, I love your writing! My husband and I have a similar relationship, except that he is a super-hermit, and I am somewhat social:)
But for the spirit of adventure, I am the leader. He follows, out of inexperience, but is willing to try anything new. I got this trait from my father, who is just like your husband: travelling around the world, most of his colleagues (all doctors)would order Wiener Schnitzel and French Fries, just to be on the safe side. He always ordered something ethnic, local, unknown and mysterious.
O, supermarkets! I do not mind them, although I prefer smaller stores where I can get to know the owners and workers (the old country influences of my childhood:) But my husband abhors them. He knows exactly when the crowds are going to be small, and aims for those off-hours. Even then, we go through them with the speed of light, no hesitating, no ogling, no thinking.
I have to say that I have never made panna cotta before, nor have I ever eaten it. Sham, I know. But as it is simple and we all love creamy desserts. you have me intrigued.
Great blog, really:)

Jamie said...

@Lana: Thrilled to have you aboard the Life's a Feast Express! Welcome! And I love your story, hearing about you and your husband and see so many parallels. (and I, like you, just love ogling in supermarkets!). And you must try panna cotta! This is a wonderful recipe and you can change the orgeat syrup for another or simply a teaspoon of vanilla. Gorgeous!

tasteofbeirut said...

sirop d'orgeat reminds me of old French novels like Balzac and Flaubert, I don't know why!
This sounds and looks like a lovely and tasty dessert.

Jamie said...

@tasteofbeirut : Joumana, maybe that is why my husband loves it! Thanks for that thought!

asiangrrl said...

Jamie, I fully commiserate with JP on how he feels in supermarkets. I feel the same way. This panna cotta looks simply divine.

Jeanne @ Cooksister! said...

Ooh, that looks fantastic! I need to make more pannacotta, methinks... Lovely pics too :) And in my marriage, i am the adventurous one! N won't even eat boudin noir and I LOVE it :o)

staub cookware said...

Wow this looks delicious. I adore panna cotta it's one of my favorite but I desserts, but I never made it. Thanks for the post, this will inspire me to try and make.

Juno said...

I love the recipe, I love your writing, and I love your photographs. Delicious. Any chance of your putting some of that panna cotta in the mail and sending it down south? *She asked plaintively*

Gosia said...

These look delicious. I will try your recipe today.

foodie and the chef said...

I've never tried orgeat syrup before - your panna cotta look like creamy divinity !

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