Weir Cooking in the City: Panna Cotta with Raspberries

Serves: 6

In Italian, panna cotta means "cooked cream." Like all custards, I think that makes it a great choice for adults and children alike. So when my brother, John, and his son, Cory, came into the city recently for dinner, I made panna cotta for dessert, and knowing that my brother loves vanilla like I do, I put lots of vanilla bean into the custards. As I turned the custards out onto the serving plates, my nephew asked why I put all that black pepper into the panna cotta. It was just all the little vanilla seeds! Despite the "pepper," they both absolutely loved the dessert. I adapted this recipe from one by Nancy Silverton of Campanile in Los Angeles. She is a fantastic pastry chef, baker, and, in food circles, well known for her creamy panna cotta.

• 2 tablespoons cold water
• 1 3/4 teaspoons unflavored powdered gelatin
• 1 1/2 cups heavy cream
• 1/2 cup milk
• 4 tablespoons sugar
• Pinch of salt
• 2 vanilla beans

• 2 cups raspberries
• 3 tablespoons water
• 2 tablespoons sugar

Make the custards:
Place the water in a small bowl. Sprinkle the gelatin over the water and set aside until softened, about 5 minutes.

Place the cream, milk, 3 tablespoons of the sugar, and the salt in a saucepan.

With a small knife, cut halfway through the vanilla bean lengthwise. Open the vanilla bean and scrape the seeds into the pot. Add the beans to the vanilla mixture.

Bring to a boil over high heat, reduce to medium heat, and boil for 1 minute, stirring constantly. Watch closely so it doesn't boil over.

Remove the pan from the heat and whisk in the remaining 1 tablespoon sugar and the gelatin mixture until dissolved.

Strain the cream through a fine-mesh strainer; discard the vanilla beans.

Chill in the refrigerator or over an ice bath just until cool and slightly thicker than heavy cream, but not set. Pour into 6 5-ounce ramekins. Refrigerate for 3 hours.

Make the sauce:
Puree 1 1/4 cups of the raspberries in a blender with the water, sugar, kirsch, and lemon juice.

Strain through a fine-mesh strainer. Place in a bowl and add the remaining 3/4 cup raspberries; stir together.

Just before serving, run a small knife around the edge of each ramekin. Unmold the panna cotta onto serving plates and spoon the sauce around the custards.

Recipe ©2004 Joanne Weir from Weir Cooking in the City, reprinted by permission.