JeanMarie Brownson: A perfect pair: Blueberry compote makes a beautiful topping for panna cotta
Blueberries peak in the Midwest in July. I buy big boxes of the large, super sweet berries at the local farmers market. At home, I rinse, sort and pat them dry before freezing the berries on sheet pans. Once frozen solid, I transfer the berries to freezer bags for easier storage.
This summer, I’m combining blueberries with dark red plums for a simple fruit compote seasoned with a little lemon rind. The compote can be frozen in small containers for several months. It will keep in the refrigerator for a week or two.
Serve the sweet-tart fruit sauce over pancakes and waffles. Dollop it over slices of pound cake and ice cream for a simple dessert. Or, toast thick slices of hearty bread then spread the bread thickly with ricotta cheese. Top with the blueberry plum compote for an easy summer breakfast.
The blueberry compote makes a beautiful topping for panna cotta, a light and creamy Italian-inspired summer favorite. Literally cooked cream, panna cotta gets soft from a touch of plain gelatin. A combination of dairy products gives it flavor and texture. Creme fraiche and yogurt add a nice tang that complements this sweet fruit topping.
Pack the panna cotta in pretty jars. When they are set, top with a layer of the blueberry compote. Set the lid in place for easy transport to picnics and concerts in the park,
Makes 3 1/2 cups
Note: Look for ripe, yet still slightly firm, plums for this recipe; those with deep red flesh have a wonderful sweet flavor.
3 cups (18 ounces) fresh or frozen blueberries
4 large red or black plums, pitted, thinly sliced, about 1 1/2 cups
1/3 cup sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons water
1/2 teaspoon grated fresh lemon rind
1. Put blueberries, sliced plums, sugar, salt and 2 tablespoons water into a medium-size saucepan. Heat to a boil over medium heat. Reduce heat to low. Cook uncovered, stirring often, until berries burst and sugar completely dissolves, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat.
2. Stir in lemon rind. Cool completely. Refrigerate covered up to one week, or freeze in small containers for up to several months.
Vanilla Creme Fraiche Panna Cotta with Blueberry Compote
Makes 4 servings
Note: Use any fat level of milk and yogurt that you wish.
1 envelope (0.25 ounce) or 2 teaspoons plain powdered gelatin
2 tablespoons cold water
1 cup milk
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
Generous pinch salt
1 1/2 cups plain yogurt
1/2 cup creme fraiche or more yogurt
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Blueberry-plum compote, see recipe
Plain yogurt or softly whipped sweetened whipped cream, optional
Mint leaves, for garnish
1. Put gelatin and 2 tablespoons cold water in a small dish. Stir to dissolve gelatin. Let stand until the gelatin is rehydrated into a soft mound, about 5 minutes.
2. Meanwhile, put milk, sugar and vanilla bean into a small saucepan. Cook and stir over low heat until the sugar completely dissolves. Remove from heat and stir in the dissolved gelatin until smooth. Let the mixture cool to room temperature. Scrape seeds out of vanilla bean into the milk. Discard the bean pod. Stir in the nutmeg and salt.
3. Whisk together yogurt, creme fraiche and vanilla extract in a large bowl. Whisk in the cooled milk mixture until smooth. Divide the mixture between four attractive 8- to 10-ounce jars. Cover the jars and refrigerate until set, at least 3 hours or up to two days.
4. To serve, spoon some of the blueberry-plum compote over the top of each pudding. Top with a spoonful of the yogurt or whipped cream if desired. Garnish with mint.
(JeanMarie Brownson is a James Beard Award-winning author and the recipient of the IACP Cookbook Award for her latest cookbook, “Dinner at Home.” JeanMarie, a chef and authority on home cooking, Mexican cooking and specialty food, is one of the founding partners of Frontera Foods. She co-authored three cookbooks with chef Rick Bayless, including “Mexico: One Plate at a Time.” JeanMarie has enjoyed developing recipes and writing about food, travel and dining for more than four decades.)