Chèvre Panna Cotta with Mint Oil

Spring is coming ever so delicately knocking at my door, though you wouldn’t know it by the weather.  I set the panna cotta yesterday afternoon, not with promising rays of sun filling my kitchen, but while the sky was white with puffy snowflakes. This winter has been unrelenting, but in my heart, and in my kitchen, it is getting to be breezy and sunshiny.

The evolution of this recipe has been germinating in my brain for a few weeks now. I imagined a delicate pillow of panna cotta with fine teeny spring vegetables. Radish sprouts give this dish a little sharp bite, and fresh mint adds counter balance. It’s not always the case that my imaginings turn out just so, but this one was a triumph. The texture is more like a trembleque, which is astonishing next to the slight crunch of the asparagus and the pop of the peas. Not only is it melty light and refreshing, it’s also refreshing light in calories too!

The secret ingredient is a splash of grapefruit vinegar, which I concocted myself. I’ve been having a lot of fun creating some lovely vinegar flavors. I promise I’ll be posting on the vinegars with recipes soon, I’m just working on a few other versions that I think you’ll really enjoy. I am all about the finishing vinegar these days…

 

For those keeping track, I am still overwrought by the breaking of my camera. I used my traveling point and shoot today, which is… well….

Let me just say that I’ve been a real champ  trying to be a real champ about this. I decided to Snap to!, Stiff upper lip! and all that, but the charm is swiftly waning. I’m finding that capturing images onto this teeny sensor has been quite fine, but the lens on this bugger is NOT conducive to my creative flexings. The damn thing has such a curved lens that I struggle with distortion, which you might notice a bit of in the picture above. I crop and crop and crop, which leaves me with a less quality than I would like. *sigh*

I know I’m being a big whiney baby right now. I know that many many folks shoot solely with a camera like the one, (Canon G11), which is no slouch of a camera at all! AND great work can be, and is, created.

When I studied photography in college (back in the caveman days), I was a purist. I shot 35mm film with only a 50mm lens. I felt that you didn’t need fancy camera or lenses to create Art, and for the most part, I still believe that to be true. But like a person that drove a your parent’s hand me down car for a long time, and then one day you get to drive a Mercedes, well, there is just no comparison. Will they both get you to where you want to go? No question, but oh what a ride in the Mercedes.

This is how I feel about my camera. I plunked down a pile of money a few years back to buy it. It was a real financial stretch, and a personal affirmation of my dedication to photography. I promised myself that I would use it so much that it would earn it’s value back many times.

And it has.

My camera is worth every penny, and I will love her long into the future once I get her back. It has been a lesson for me. Do you always need the most expensive things? Not always, but sometimes having quality and good tools can make a difference- and I have come to learn that I am worth it.

I hope you enjoy my spring treat. It really is no fuss to make, even though it looks fussy.

Happy Almost Spring!

Chèvre Panna Cotta with Mint Oil
I used some small condiment dishes I had to mold the panna cotta but any vessel will do, including tea cups, wine glasses etc. It’s also possible to make one single large mold, and even double or triple this recipe to do so. The panna cotta may be made a day or two in advance and kept in the fridge.
serves 4
 
1.5 cup reduced fat milk, divided
1.5t unflavored gelatin
6 oz chèvre
pinch of salt
1 c asparagus, sliced into small pieces, leaving heads whole
1 c English peas
3T fresh mint, finely minced
2T olive oil
2T grapefruit vinegar, or white balsamic vinegar
handful radish sprouts
 
 
Prepare 4 molds, about a half cup in size, by lightly oiling them. Set aside
 
In a small bowl place .5c of cold milk and sprinkle the gelatin over the top, stirring to moisten all the gelatin if necessary. Allow to rest and bloom for 3-5 minutes.
 
In a blender, or with a hand blender, combine the chèvre, salt and the rest of the milk, and blend smooth.
 
Warm the gelatin milk in a microwave for 1 minute. The milk will be hot and the gelatin melted. Stir into the chèvre mixture and thoroughly incorporate.
Divide the mixture between the four cups, then place in the refrigerator until set, about 3 hours.
 
Place a saucepan with 2 inches of water and a generous pinch of salt over a high flame and bring to the boil. Add the asparagus and peas and boil for a minute and a half, or until the vegetables turn a bright green and have a tender bite to them. Immediately drain through a sieve and run cold water over them to stop the cooking.
 
In a medium bowl combine mint and olive oil.
 
To turn out the pannacotta, run a sharp knife, place a plate on the top, then flip the two over. The panna cotta will fall right out onto the plate. If it needs a nudge just give the cup a tap or two.
 
Sprinkle the vegetable over the top, then drizzle with the mint oil. Finish with a splash of vinegar over the top of each.
 
Serve with some crackers or crusty bread.
 
Enjoy!
 
 

Savory Scallion Dill Pancakes with Feta

 
 

Buttermilky tang mixed with the freshness of the dill. The char on the scallions give a sharp onion bite. Salty feta is the creamy thanks to the crunch of the crust.

Enjoy with your early evening cocktail, or crisp Sauvignon Blanc.

Happy Weekend.

Savory Scallion Dill Pancake
 
This is a good “back pocket” recipe for an impromptu gathering, when you need a nibble so soak up good wine with good company. Poach and egg and make it a savory breakfast treat.
 
Makes 16- 2.5″ pancakes
 
 
2 cups of all purpose flour
1T baking powder
1/2 t salt
2T fresh dill, minced
2 eggs
2 cups buttermilk
4 scallion, cut into fine rounds
1T olive oil
1-2 oz of fresh feta
 
In a mixing bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, salt and dill. Mix thoroughly.
 
In a separate cup, combine the buttermilk and eggs and beat smooth.
 
Add the buttermilk into the dry and gently combine, taking care not to over mix. A few lumps or streaks of of flour is preferable to over mixing.
 
In a frying pan warm the oil over medium heat. Add the scallions and fry for 2 minutes until they start to sizzle.
 
Add dollops of batter over the scallions and cook until the edges start to firm and brown. Turn and fry on the other side.
 
Transfer to a warm platter and sprinkle with crumbled feta and serve.

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Zucchini Roll Ups with Provencal Roasted Tomatoes: And the Camera Calamity

One of the worst things happened to me yesterday. Not a tragedy, but certainly a calamity that has left me unsettled and distraught: My camera done got broke.
It’s not hard to imagine the fact that I use my camera just about every day. If I’m not shooting actual food for myself or for my internship, I am practicing technique, or {attempting to} teaching myself new things. It might surprise you to know that I photograph far more things than I publish. Sometimes because they are just studies, but sometimes, (and I hate to admit this), yes sometimes, things turn out dreadfully. It has been known to happen that I have trashed and completely reshot an entire recipe several times until I felt I got it.
This is, in fact, a new sort of me.

This is not to suggest anything except that I am learning to be a nit picker. Since this is not a genetic proclivity, I have a long way to go. At times it can be a bothersome struggle, but I am learning that there is  music in the process for me. Perhaps what I am really getting at is not that I am learning to be overly critical, but to go past the point of “good” creation. It’s a different realm, it’s the practice of getting to a better quality of “yes”. Sometimes it’s satisfying, mostly it’s satisfying. Some days it’s downright aggravating.

Like I said, I am nascent at this new phase. I have many baby steps ahead of me.

But today I’ve experienced a mechanical failure, and so I am derailed for the week. My beloved Canon 5D has dislodged its mirror. For those who don’t know: The mirror is behind the lens in front of the sensor. It’s main function is to reflect what you see through the lens up into the view finder so you can actually see through the camera. When you press the shutter button, the mirror flips up and allows light to enter through the lens, hit the sensor in the back of the camera, and VIOLA! record the image onto the sensor.

According to the web, I am not alone in this problem. A factory defect (bad glue?) is the culprit. So cheery Graydon at the other end of the 1-800 number, assured me that a ticket and tag and assessment etc etc will be swiftly executed, and without delay or cost my baby shall be repaired. *sigh*

His idea of swiftly was a week to ten days- an interminable amount of time to my mind. Good god.

So! Onward to Plan B. I have a point and shoot, I have my iPhone and I have plenty of other things to do. I shall make the most of it, I shall rise in the face of adversity, I shall most likely learn something very good! So thank you very much. Again… *sigh*

The breakdown occurred halfway through this shoot, specifically while I was taking a shot of the zucchini being grilled (hence no photo, sorry). Perhaps you can’t tell, that would be nice.

As a result this shoot did not turn out to the “yes” I was hoping for. I decided to let that go, it’s the karmic dada of this recipe. It was “meant” to be this way. It’s the Art of the recipe expressed. {gawd}

However, let me be clear, this only goes for the photography. The styling could have been better, I could have been a bit more creative in the shooting process, but the recipe is quite lovely.

This is a perfect dish for a luncheon or a light supper. Tangy goat cheese is rolled up in thin strips of grilled zucchini and paired with roasted tomatoes that are so sweet and flavorful, and still quite juicy.

The rolling is a little fiddly, but laying the zucchini down on a layer of plastic wrap is a fantastic tool. I really hope you enjoy this one.

Zucchini Roll-Up with Provencal Tomatoes
The rolling makes this dish look a bit fancy, but it’s really pretty easy to do, and little touches like this make the simple so special. The rolls can be made ahead of time and, either quickly rewarmed, or served at room temperature.
 
Serves 2
 
10 medium Campari tomatoes
2 cloves garlic, minced
1T olive oil
1T dried basil
S&P
2 large zucchini
1 oz goat cheese
1/2 cup part skim ricotta
S&P
 
Preheat the oven to 425˚
 
Slice the tomatoes in half through the midsection. Place tomatoes into a bowl with the garlic, oil, basil, S&P (to taste) and toss to combine ingredients.
 
Place the tomatoes skin side down into a roasting pan and spoon any remaining marinade over the top. Place into the oven and roast until the tomatoes start to shrink, about 35 minutes.
 
Slice the zucchini in thin strips along the long end of the squash. Heat a grill pan on the stove, spritz with cooking spray and grill until mostly done. The squash will continue to cook after you remove them from the heat, if you cook it to perfection on the grill they will turn to mush as they cool and not be sturdy enough to roll. The zucchini should show some opaqueness in the flesh, and the green skin should be bright.
 
In a food processor combine the goat cheese and ricotta and a pinch of salt and puree smooth.
 
Lay down a sheet of plastic wrap on your counter and line up the zucchini on it, overlapping. Carefully spread the cheese mixture in a thin layer, then using the plastic wrap for support, roll up the zucchini, sushi style.
 
Carefully unroll the zucchini onto the cutting board, seam side down, then cut in half.
 
Serve half a roll and half the tomatoes. A drizzle of fruity olive oil would be nice here, and a slice or two of peasant bread would be perfection.
 
Enjoy!