Recipe: Vanilla Bean Panna Cotta with Apricot Gelée

Panna Cotta, an Italian dessert of silky, sweetened cream set with gelatin, is all at once simple, classic and elegant.  It is, at its best, subtle, not overly sweet, and the perfect way to end a meal on a light and refreshing note.
Panna cotta comes together quickly and can be molded in any type of vessels you choose -- from ramekins to demitasse, martini glasses to mason jars.  I like to compliment my panna cotta with a thin layer of gelée -- a gelatin stabilized glaze made from fresh fruit.  Apricots are in season right now, and are bursting with summer sweetness, so I chose to do an apricot gelée.  You can use my recipe with any type of fruit you'd like.  
Here are some photos of panna cottas I've made in the past with a variety of gelées and vessels:
Vanilla Panna Cotta with a Honey Gelée and Bee Pollen
Lemon Panna Cotta, no gelée
Meyer-Lemon Panna Cotta, Strawberry-Rhubarb Gelee

I like to decorate my desserts with edible flowers, especially in summer and springtime. My theme fo…

Poblano Macaroni & Cheese (The Homesick Texan Cookbook Spotlight & Cook-off Series)

Imagine if you will...
...A cast iron skillet bubbling with white cheddar sauce, enveloping poblano peppers and macaroni in its creamy, garlic perfumed embrace.  This 'aint your mama's mac and cheese.  This is the Poblano Macaroni & Cheese from The Homesick Texan's eponymous cookbook.

This is the third recipe from the cookbook that I've had the pleasure to enjoy as part of "The Homesick Texan Cookbook Spotlight & Cook-Off", along with 18 other talented food bloggers, and hosted by Heather of Girlichef.  Last week, we explored the "Dallas Gas Station Taco" phenomenon with some incredible marinated pork tacos.  Then we shifted gears and headed for Austin where we slow-cooked a pot of smoky, spicy and flavorful black beans that are a perfect side dish, but are good enough to stand alone as a vegetarian chili!

This week, we indulged in The Homesick Texans kicked up version of macaroni and cheese, which she's paired up with roasted poblano peppers, lime zest, cilantro, and a hint of cumin.  It was delicious and my husband has already requested an encore!

Poblano Macaroni & Cheese
from Lisa Fain's The Homesick Texan Cookbook

2 Poblano chiles
8 oz's elbow pasta
2 Tbsp unsalted butter
4 cloves minced garlic
2 Tbsp all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups of whole milk
1 tsp of mustard powder
1/4 tsp of cayenne powder
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp lime zest
1/2 cup of chopped cilantro
Salt and pepper to taste
4 cups grated white cheddar (12 ozs)
1/2 cup of Cotija cheese

1.  Roast the poblano chiles under the broiler until blackened, about 5 minutes per side.  Place chiles in a paper sack or plastic food-storage bag, close tightly, and let the chiles steam for 20 minutes.  Take the chiles out of the bag and rub off the skin.  Remove stema nd seeds and chop the chiles into 1-inch long pieces.

2.  Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and add the pasta.  Cook for 5-7 minutes (al dente).  

3.  Preheat the oven to 375. Grease a large baking dish or cast-iron skillet and pour the drained pasta into the dish. 

4.  In the now empty pasta pot, melt the butter over low heat.  Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute.  Whisk in the flour and cook until a light brown, toasty paste is formed (about 1 minute).  Whisk in the milk and stir until it's thickened a bit but still fluid (about 1 to 2 minutes).  Remove the pot from the heat and stir in the mustard powder, cayenne, cumin, lime zest, cilantro and chopped poblanos.  Adjust seasonings and add salt & pepper.

5.  Slowly add half of the cheddar cheese and stir until it's melted and well combined into the sauce.  If the sauce has cooled too much and the cheese won't melt, return the pot to low heat on the stove.  If the sauce is too thick, you can thin it by stirring in a small amount of milk (one Tablespoon at a time).  Pour sauce over pasta and top with the remaining half of the cheddar cheese and bake uncovered for 20 minutes or until brown and bubbling.  Sprinkle with Cotija cheese, and serve immediately.

What's for dessert?
The dough puffs like magic as they cook.
Mmmmm....fried dough!
Stay tuned...I'll be posting the recipe tomorrow

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