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No-sweat dessert - Buttermilk Panna Cotta

Summer is slowly ebbing away in the Northern hemisphere and the cool of fall and winter later (brrr!!) is setting in. I know I should have written about this perfect summer dessert earlier, but, I was bit distracted with travel et all. But, here it is, now, just in time to squeeze it into your menu before the warmth runs away to vacation in the South (those South of Equator, What perfect timing!, you say, surely).

So, why is it perfect? Simple; It is light, refreshing, served cold, and needs no oven to set; a real no-sweat dessert! It all started with a craving for panna cotta on a hot summer day. I did not have cream at home and did not feel like stepping out into the humidity to get a carton. But I did have buttermilk, which, got me thinking. Soon enough (well... not counting the overnight gelatinizing) I made myself a nice dessert.

Even the husband was impressed! To put that in context, he doesn't much like buttermilk in anything other than biscuits. I, however, can drink it straight with a just a bit of salt. Have you tried that?! No? You must. It is incredibly refreshing! It cools you system and helps your digestion too. Back to the panna cotta now; so while he wasn't exactly thrilled about the concept when I mentioned it, he definitely devoured the end result pretty greedily!! LOL...

I made simple vanilla flavored panna cotta this time. But, I imagine this will pair beautifully with citrus flavors as well. The buttermilk makes the panna cotta not too sweet, so something sweet on top works nicely with it. I served it with some chunky blueberry coulis I had made earlier (chunky because I like the texture of cooked blueberries and so decided to not strain the coulis. But, if you don't swing that way, feel free to go traditional). Honey or warm apricot jelly would pair well as well.

Buttermilk Panna Cotta with Chunky Blueberry Coulis
(4 servings)

Panna Cotta:

1 T water
3/4 tsp unflavored gelatin
1 cup whole milk
1/4 cup sugar
1 cup buttermilk
1 tsp vanilla extract

In a small cup sprinkle gelatin over the water and set aside for about 10 minutes to let the gelatin soften.

Meanwhile, heat milk and sugar in medium saucepan over medium-high heat, stirring constantly until sugar dissolves. Increase heat and bring just to low boil, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat and add the softened gelatin. Stir until gelatin dissolves. Cool the mixture to lukewarm. Stir in buttermilk and vanilla. Divide the mixture among four 4 oz ramekins. Refrigerate atleast 5 hours; overnight is better.

When you are ready to serve, dip each ramekin into hot water to loosed the panna cotta. Using small sharp knife, cut around panna cotta in each ramekin. Invert the panna cotta on to the dessert plate. Top with coulis/honey/warm jelly and serve alongside summer fruits.

Blueberry Coulis:

1 pint blueberries
1/2 cup sugar
2 T honey
1/4 cup water
2 tsp lemon juice
2 T rum

In a small saucepan, mix the berries, water, sugar and honey. Bring the mixture to a boil, lower the heat, and stir in the lemon juice. Let the mixture simmer for 6 -7 minutes and let it thicken a bit. Remove from the heat and stir in the rum.

At this point, you can leave it chunky like I did, or strain out the syrup.

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