Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Panna Cotta and Lunch with 2 Italians

A recipe I like to keep close at hand for a quick dessert is Panna Cotta, especially when ripe fruit is abundant. I had barely unpacked from moving when my Aunt informed me she had signed me up for Italian class. I was a little unsure as to where I'd find the time to spare, but I was long overdue to learn to speak the language properly. My grandparents came here from Italy and spoke Italian in front of us, but they wanted my parents to be American, so insisted they speak English.

After the first two weeks of class I knew there was no turning back and that I’m not quitting until I’m fluent. The biggest hurdle to learning a language is not using it enough, so I told my Aunt she has to come over to my house once a week for lunch and practice.

When she comes over I try and fix her a simple Italian meal with dessert of course and when I don’t have to run right out afterwards a glass of red wine never hurts. (It improves your Italian too, my opinion anyways.)

This week we had a frittata with vegetables I picked up at the farmer’s market, a green salad and for dessert this perfect light and not too sweet dessert. My Aunt is a diabetic, so I made this dessert with her in mind and omitted the sugar in the panna cotta, it works just fine without it and including it is a matter of personal preference.

Vanilla-Almond Panna Cotta
¼ cup vanilla almond milk (or low-fat milk)
1 packet unflavored gelatin (2 ½ teaspoons)
2 cups heavy cream
¼ cup granulated sugar (optional)
1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste
1 teaspoon almond extract

In a large bowl add the almond milk and sprinkle the gelatin over it. Heat the cream and sugar in a small saucepan over medium heat until the milk starts bubbling. Take the cream off the heat and pour into the almond milk, add the vanilla and almond extract and whisk gently until combined.

Pour the mixture into 4 ramekins that are lightly oiled or do as I did and pour the mixture into 4 empty 8-ounce jelly jars (no need to oil). Cover the jars or ramekins with plastic wrap and place in the fridge for a minimum of four hours.

Serve with a generous amount of Apricot Mint Topping.

Apricot Mint Topping
5-6 apricots (I say the more the merrier.)
1 tablespoon apple-mint leaves (2-3), chiffonade
1 tablespoon agave sweetener or honey
Juice from ½ of a lime

Peel, pit and slice the apricots. Add the apricots, apple-mint leaves, agave and lime juice to a bowl and place in the fridge until ready to use.

I planted an apple-mint herb plant this spring and I’m so glad I did, it’s much milder than spearmint. Worth adding to your herb garden if you can find it.

I’ve had the words tired and apathetic running through my mind lately. I believe it’s more tired than apathy, I think the problem is I’m long overdue for a break. My schedule has been punishing as of late and I have some other projects that need my attention. One of them is my niece needs a mural of Rapunzel riding a unicorn over a rainbow. So I think I’m going to take the next few weeks off and just detour for awhile. Trying to reason with my apathy I was drawn to the poem “The New Colossus” written by Emma Lazarus and I knew it was no accident this poem crossed my path considering that my Grandparents were greeted by Lady Liberty when they arrived in this country.

If you e-mail me, I’ll try and get back to you promptly, but I probably won’t be online much.

Thanks everyone,


p.s.  I already published this once without the photos, duh.  If that isn't a sign I need a break; I don't know what is.


  1. Aww, Gina. I love this post! I hope you enjoy your break. One Italian girl to another, I sure am happy you have an aunt to be a chiacchierone with. :) That's gotta be my favorite Italian word and second fave is mezzaluna. :) Take it easy and thank you for the apple mint tip and recipe. I have chocolate mint plus regular mint so far. CENT'ANNI!

  2. I am happy I have her to be a chatterbox with too! Get the apple-mint Hope, you will love it.

  3. I just put in an apple mint! How fun to learn Italian, such a beautiful language;-)
    I love your lunch menu, lovely and so special to make Panna Cotta for dessert, yummy!

  4. Gina, I hope you find your break a refreshing change of pace. We all need that sometimes! Buon divertimento!

    No, unfortunately I don't speak Italian. I translated online. Hope it says what I meant to say! :)

  5. Gina,
    Sometimes life gets in the way of blogging, and we have to take care of things, as well as ourselves. You'll come back renewed.

    I have never seen apple mint before, but I'll be looking for it now. I have the spearmint, to make mojitos.

    Enjoy the time with your Aunt:)

  6. Ha Ha Kath, don't worry I google translate all the time. Thanks Becky and Patty I will catch up with all of you soon.

  7. I love Italian food very much but unfortunately I don't speak Italian. Please tell me how to say 'I love your food' in Italian :D

  8. Not sure I have ever seen 'apple mint' before...gotta check it out later since today is the market day here.
    The panna cotta looks fabulous, Gina!

  9. If your folks spoke Italian when you were young, you'll have the accent down pat. The rest is just practice. My grandparents were all French and never spoke English. We never spoke French but I always understood them and they understood us. Congrats on going to class.

    Love the panna cotta !

  10. I want to send you a hug because I totally understand. Every time I dollop jam on something, I send a prayer your way, just so you know. The strawberry cardamom was gone in two days (yes, it was that good). Working my way through apricot now. :)

    Take the road less traveled for a bit; it'll make all the diffrence. ;)

    (But I'll miss you.)

  11. Happy Thursday Gina! I have only made panna cotta once and I now wonder why don't I make this more often - it is so tasty. Love the topping you included - apricot and mint - perfect combo!

  12. Oh, wow, this must be marvelous with the fresh apricot topping. And who knew a little wine helped with foreign language skills ;)

  13. As a fellow Italian girl, I am embarrassed to say that I have never made Panna Cotta. The apricot and mint topping sounds delicious so I have no excuse but to give this one a try!

  14. I have never made panna cotta before. You said it's easy - I really should give it a try (you know I suck at baking!). It's wonderful that you are learning Italians. I'm speaking more English than Japanese to my kids as they speak more English after going to school. Hmmm I need to try really hard to speak Japanese to them!

  15. oOO Panna Cotta; love them and I have not made them in a while now. Time to make some, that's for sure. You are absolutely right Gina, they are simple to make, but not everyone can get them as smooth and creamy that melts in the mouth.. LOL.. i can imagine your panna cottas melting in my mouth. YUMMMmmiieeee.. The only thing I could say in Italian is.. Buongiorno! Come sta? Non parla Italiano.. parla Inglese? ;). Have a good week ahead!! Hugggsssss, Jo

  16. Enjoy your break! We all need to recharge now and again. And I love the Panna Cotta - one of those dishes I haven't made in ages. But now that I've seen yours? I've got it on my mind, and probably won't rest until I make myself some. Good post - thanks.

  17. Congratulations Gina; I am sure this will be a success. Your your presentation. Enjoy your break my friend.

  18. I would love to learn Italian!

  19. Gina-I loved reading your post about the Italian language. I hear it every single day, from my son-in-law. My daughter Lora speaks with him all the time in Italian (and she is American born) I understand everything, but can't speak it fluently. You have to have someone speaking it to you every day to be able to converse, which I have realized, but in my case; the only way to learn more is to be "stuck in an Italian household i.e. me in Italy w/in-laws) to learn more!

    Your panna cotta is divine, and totally delicious with the apricots...your mints are beautiful, and also the previous post with the yummy cookies, which I haven't had the chance to comment on, but would like to pin both of these beauties on Pinterest.
    I have been virtually out of circulation for over one week, and neglecting to comment to you, and others...not even checking out the latest on some, but it's always a joy to stop by to see your latest!

  20. I so want to learn Italian. I took a class - and it scratched the basics (What time is it? Here is the hotel.) Grandma was the same way - she only wanted to hear English. Love your inspired panna cotta with fruit - the apricot is the perfect way to balance the richness and who needs sugar anyway?

  21. Hi, I am really happy to tell you I have awarded you some... awards :D
    Congrats and check it out here:

    Choc Chip Uru

  22. I have to say. Pannacotta is never a "quick" dessert. As far as i know they're very difficult to make. I'm so envious that you could make these desserts with a snap of your fingers!

  23. Hi Gina,

    I hope you are having a great break. You are always so busy so yes, you're overdue for one. I think it's great to learn the language of your family roots. How else to get to know a culture fully than by speaking the language. My husband always says a little alcohol does make you speak better:) The panna cotta and frittata look delicous!

  24. First off, I hope you are having a wonderful and relaxing break :) Second, so excited about your apple mint fun, love it! And then there is this delightful looking frittata, gorgeous! And as if that were not enough, your truly lovely panna cotta...WOW!
    It should be such fun to learn the language of your heritage, I am sure you will do well (my French is horrid by the way), and you are incouraging me to do the same :)
    Happy break to you, and big hugs!

  25. After looking at your photos, I know I need to attempt to make a panna cotta! I love the almond and vanilla flavors in this dish! :)

  26. That's true about learning language that you have to use enough so you get used to it. My parents are Vientamese and speak Vietnamese to each other but Thai to us. I don't pick up speaking much. Anyhow, the panna cotta looks so delicious as well as the frittata! I grow my mint too but not apple mint. I need to find one and add it in my garden :D

  27. I hope you're enjoying your break, Gina--sounds like it's a much-needed, well-deserved one. I love the lunch you prepared for lunch with your aunt. I love panna cotta--such a quietly elegant dessert. As I scrolling down to your recipe it struck me that you used apricot and mint together, it's what I did on my latest post but I combined them in a salad dressing. They go so well together--I didn't know! I bet they're awesome the way you used them here as a topping.

    You'll be fluent in Italian in no time. I've had my Rosetta Stone for Italian for a few years but have barely used it. Maybe I can practice with you down the road. :)

    Hope you're having a great week. :)

  28. This looks heavenly! As always, your pictures are so vivid and beautiful and I love the recipe!

    You've inspired me to pick up my Italian lessons once again...a beautiful language!

    I hope you enjoy your break...well deserved! Caio! xo

  29. great recipes! that panna cotta sounds divine!

  30. Sounds like you do need a break! I know I have to recharge from time to time, otherwise I'm worthless (though some would say that's my normal state!). Congrats on the Italian lessons. I'd love to spend some time living in Italy (not move there - just sublet a place for a month or two) so I should really learn a bit of the language (I do know some French and Spanish so the vocabulary is a bit similar, though with many differences).