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…

Feels like Fall: Red Lentil Carrot Soup Recipe

About a month ago, we experienced an especially winter-like day.  Foggy days are not uncommon here, but this particular day was downright bone-chilling. It was the kind of day that called for staying in pajamas, stoking a fire in the hearth, and warming up with a bowl of hearty soup.  Stepping out to the grocery store was out of the question, so I decided to rummage through the pantry.  A jar of red lentils beckoned, and I answered the call with a delicious soup combining the warmth of aromatic Eastern spices, the sweetness of fresh carrots, and the bright notes of fresh herbs. 

Since it was smack-dab in the middle of summer for much of the country, I decided to keep the recipe on shelf until fall.  Sure enough, the fall weather came blowing in this week, and I decided that the time had come to make another batch of Red Lentil Carrot Soup and share the recipe with my readers.  To my chagrin, the recipe was nowhere to be found.  So, I went back to the drawing board, meticulously weighing, measuring and recording my every move.  The results were even better than first time, and I'm happy to be sharing the final recipe with you today!

Red lentils are a wonderful source of protein and fiber, and unlike other types of lentils, the red variety is quick-cooking!  
Red lentils, which turn yellow when cooked, can be table-ready in around 30-minutes! 

Red Lentil Carrot Soup

(with adaptations to make vegetarian and vegan)
Yield: 4-6 servings
Time:  40 minutes

  • 1 Tablespoon Ghee (clarified butter) or vegetable oil
  • 1 1/2 cups finely chopped onion
  • 1 1/2 cups carrots (that have been peeled and chopped into 1/4" cubes)
  • 1 teaspoon Diamond kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon mild chili powder
  • 1 Tablespoon mild curry powder
  • 1 clove fresh garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon fresh grated ginger (or 1/2 teaspoon dry)
  • 2 cups dried red lentils
  • 1 Quart chicken stock (or vegetable stock for a vegetarian recipe)
  • 2 cups water 
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 sprigs fresh thyme, kept whole
  • 1/2 cup light coconut milk
  • 5-6 medium fresh basil leaves, chiffonade cut

Step 1:  Preheat a heavy-bottomed 4-qt. saute pan or stock pot with ghee (or oil).  Add finely chopped onions and cook for 10 minutes on medium heat, stirring occasionally to promote even browning.  Onions should be slightly browned and translucent.  Add carrots and salt and continue to cook on medium for another 5 minutes.

Step 2:  Add cumin, garlic powder, chili powder and curry powder to onion and carrot mixture.  Cook for 3 minutes over medium to bring out the oils in the spices.  Stir frequently to prevent burning.  Stir in the minced garlic and ginger and cook for 1 minute more.  Stir in the red lentils.

Step 3:  Add stock, water, bay leaf and thyme sprigs.  Bring to a boil over medium-high heat.  Reduce heat to a low simmer and cook, uncovered for 30 minutes or until the lentils are tender.

Step 4:  Remove from heat and stir in the light coconut milk and fresh basil.  Adjust seasoning with salt (only if necessary).  Serve with a crusty rustic bread (which is fabulous when dipped in the soup). 

If soup is too thick, you can add more water, till you reach the desired consistency.  Or, serve over basmati or jasmine rice.

Have you tried red lentils?

I hope you like this easy, affordable recipe! Between April 25 - May 25, 2014 a donation of just $40 will help the Beckstrand Cancer Association feed a family coping with cancer for an entire week! Click HERE to make your donation. 

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