Today is the first day of Spring, and while you could hardly even tell Winter came to Southern California this year, I still anticipate the sunshine and flowers and general sense of renewal that comes with this season. I don’t make New Year’s Resolutions, nor have I ever been the type to keep them, but there’s something about Springtime that just makes me want to make everything better: my life, my health, and my overall happiness. Lately I’ve noticed that I haven’t quite been myself and things have been very… off. So while I won’t go too far into personal details here, I’ve resolved to fix that, albeit slowly, as well. Baby steps.
Yesterday was my day off and since the hubby was at work, I took a nice, quiet stroll through the San Juan Capistrano Farmer’s Market, which was a mere 10 minutes from our home. While the farmer’s market itself was small, downtown SJC during the daytime is always a bustling place, filled with rich history and culture. It happens to be my favorite place to relax; there are antique shops and little markets and boutiques all without the LA prices, so if you’re ever in South Orange County, I highly recommend stopping by. I got the lovely mix of flowers in the picture above for $4 at the market. Aren’t they stunning??
For a while I’ve wanted to come up with a very floral dessert, and yesterday I finally decided what I wanted to make: something with very simple components, but bursting with the flavors of Spring. I made a verrine with a Honey Panna Cotta, a Feijoa and Strawberry Rope, and a Lavender Broth, and garnished it all with some edible pansies. For the panna cotta I used local honey made from avocado blossoms: while it’s not quite as floral as say, an orange blossom honey, it’s very buttery, which combines really well with the already rich and creamy dessert. For the rope, I used very ripe feijoas and wild strawberries. Feijoas are also known as pineapple guavas; they have all the tropical notes that pineapples and guavas have, but the meat is smooth and more creamy than it is tart. The rope gives the dish a nice fruity pop when you take a bite. The lavender broth combined with the feijoa strawberry rope cut into the richness of the panna cotta really well, and make for a dish that swells with springtime goodness. Basically, I want to jar it and use it as perfume.
For Honey Panna Cotta:
Makes 3 verrines
165 g heavy cream
20 g granulated sugar
20 g honey
3 g granular gelatin
15 g cold water
Bloom your gelatin in your cold water and set aside. In a small pot, combine heavy cream, sugar, and honey and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Turn off heat and stir in bloomed gelatin until completely melted. Let mixture cool a little, then carefully pour into verrines. To achieve the tilted glass look that I have in my pictures, I set my glasses into the wells of a large muffin pan, and tilted them slightly to the side while ensuring they have enough support to stay tilted when filled, then filled them just under half-way. Chill panna cottas overnight.
For Feijoa Strawberry Rope:
90 g Feijoas, ripe, trimmed and seeded
45 g strawberries, trimmed and quartered
150 g granulated sugar
2 g granular gelatin
10 g warm water
1/2 teaspoon lime juice
Bloom your gelatin in cold water, set aside. In a small pot, combine Feijoas, strawberries, and sugar, and bring to a boil. While stirring, let mixture boil until fruit has softened and broken down considerably, and sugar syrup reduces (I brought the entire mixture to 110C). Stir in your bloomed gelatin until it has melted completely, then remove from heat and stir in your lime juice. Blend the entire mixture together until smooth, then strain through a fine mesh sieve onto a lined sheet pan. Discard any pulp, and cover and chill the puree overnight. The next day, scrape puree (it should be firmer and more like a paste by now) into a piping bag fitted with a small round tip (I used Ateco #801). Keep cold.
For Lavender Broth:
1 Tablespoon dried Lavender buds
30 g sugar
230 g water
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 drops purple color (if desired)
Combine lavender buds, sugar, water, and vanilla extract in a saucepot and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Remove from heat and chill overnight. The next day, strain out buds and add color if desired. Carefully pour into verrines with chilled panna cotta, and then pipe Feijoa strawberry paste into a long rope around verrines. Garnish with edible flowers if desired.