Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Spice up Valentine's Day with Blood Orange Panna Cotta

The last few days were downright dewy, fresh and warm.  Balmy.  The mountain of snow accumulated this winter in my front yard withered and retreated slightly, leaving the tallest honeysuckle boughs and even a few stones bordering the garden visible.  Where the snow once dwarfed me, I can now glower down at it, imagining its total defeat and the flowers that will bloom in its place.  The recent heat wave reminds me that winter is on its way out.  Soon honeysuckle and the smell of damp, wet earth will perfume the neighborhood.  I think the basil in my kitchen may even have grown, a little bit.  Let winter have its last death rattle!  The end is near.
Citrus Week rolls along with a few more recipes, but first I give kudos to my supplier: Santo’s Farm Natural & Organic on Court Street in Brooklyn.  They are by far my favorite grocery.  The shop is so small, nestled next to larger Good Food Store and Gourmet Fresh, that I often underestimate them.  I think there is no way they could have that one obscure ingredient I need for a particular dish.  But they always do have it.  Santo’s competes by simply having the best.  They don’t need the extra space to store mediocre products.  Instead, their shelves are filled with every kind of grain imaginable, even quinoa.  They have udon and tofu and tofu sausages.  But their produce in particular is of a very high quality and the variety is astounding at such a small shop.  They allow me to fill my kitchen with the crispiest snap peas, the freshest basil, the ripest avocados.  This past week in particular they came through in a pinch, providing blood oranges, navel oranges, varieties of grapefruit, lemon and limes.  I cleaned them out!  The blood orange panna cotta I made required 12 blood oranges.  I mistakenly ventured to several other groceries looking for blood oranges, among other things, before finally finding them at Santo’s.  I should have looked there first.
The blood orange panna cotta.  My first panna cotta attempt.  My first attempt at a real custard style desert.  In honor of both Citrus Week and the upcoming Valentine’s Day, here is a recipe for pink, creamy, refreshing desert!  Because I had never made anything like this before, I used a recipe from  I knew I wanted a panna cotta with a real punch of citrus flavor and I also wanted to use Greek style yogurt.  After doing some browsing on the web for a perfect recipe, I settled on the Epicurious version.  I made a few small changes and for the next attempt I have a few more ideas, but I stayed pretty true to their recipe.

Secon hand tea cups make perfect serving dishes!

I didn’t have any goblets, as the recipe called for, or and custard cups, so I had to improvise.  I went to my local secondhand store, a Goodwill or Salvation Army store is perfect.  (A real antique store is likely to have lovely things, but if your budget is a concern, I don’t recommend buying from one.)  I scoured the kitchen wares at the Salvation Army Store on Atlantic Avenue for anything with the right size and shape for my cute pink panna cotta.  In the end, I bought 6 adorable little tea cups for only $.99 apiece.  They worked perfectly!
As you can see below, I’m testing a new rating system for difficulty of each recipe.  It’s hard to tell exactly how much effort is required from reading a recipe online.  Sometime there are new culinary skills everyone might not have, but sometimes a recipe that looks very complicated turns out to be relatively easy.  I chose ants as they are hard workers.  The icons come from  Let me know what you think.
Blood Orange Panna Cotta:
Difficulty:  Ant Icon 32x32pxAnt Icon 32x32pxAnt Icon 32x32pxBut only because of the commitment of time involved.  This recipe is really easy otherwise.  Anyone can do it.
Time: 1 hour 25 minutes, plus 4 hour chilling before serving
Makes: 6 servings
2 1/3 cups fresh blood orange juice (from about 12 blood oranges), divided
1 3/4 teaspoons unflavored gelatin
 3/4 cup sugar, divided
 7 teaspoons finely grated blood orange peel, divided
2/3 cup fat-free plain Greek-style yogurt
2/3 cup heavy whipping cream
1/2 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
(Cardamom seeds, crushed (from about 16 pods) may be substituted for cinnamon and cloves)

Pour 1 cup juice into medium saucepan; sprinkle gelatin over. Let stand 15 minutes.

Stir gelatin mixture over low heat until gelatin dissolves, 1 to 2 minutes. Add 1/2 cup sugar and 5 teaspoons orange peel; stir until sugar dissolves, 1 to 2 minutes longer. Strain into medium bowl, pressing on solids. Discard solids in strainer. Cool juice mixture 10 minutes. Whisk yogurt, cream, and lemon juice into orange juice mixture until smooth. Divide among six small custard or tea cups. Chill until set, at least 4 hours ahead.

Blood orange and spices syrup reducing

Stir 1 1/3 cups orange juice, 1/4 cup sugar, 2 teaspoons orange peel, cinnamon and cloves in medium saucepan over low heat until sugar dissolves. Increase heat and boil until reduced into loose syrup, 8-10 minutes. Strain syrup into small bowl; chill.

Spoon some of syrup over each panna cotta and serve.

Next time I make this, and there will definitely be a next time, I will add less gelatin.  The flavors were delicious, but the texture was too dense, too solid.  I like panna cotta with a moist, softer texture.  I’ll try a little bit more yogurt, a lot less gelatin.  I’m also thinking about boiling a few slices of blood orange in the syrup as a garnish.  I imagine that the spices and the sugars will caramelize nicely over the tart fruit.
This recipe is so simple and straightforward, but it really creates a romantic result.  It’s that perfect, creamy shade of pink.  The taste is smooth and light but with an underlying richness.  It makes the perfect Valentine.  My idea:  track down some blood oranges, snuggle up somewhere cozy, out of the last throes of winter, and surprise someone with this blood orange panna cotta!


  1. love this recipe because i love blood oranges -- they are the best when picked off the trees in Calabra -- I guarantee! i am going to try this as soon as i get to florida. love reading your blood and looking at your delicious foodie pics. have you seen the smitten kitchen blog? it has yummy recipes too. ox

  2. oops I meant Calabria - southern Italy near the boot!!! mia familia

  3. How yummy, sophisticated and exquisitely delightful!!! Love the little second hand cups too, they look expectant on the window sill, love the whole idea of using them instead of new, expensive or matching ones.