I am a creature of habit. I wet my toothbrush before I put toothpaste on it (normal). I wring my hands together like a plotting villain before I eat food (a little strange). I polish off an entire pint of Ben and Jerry’s before I go to bed 3 to 4 nights a week. (Hm. Well, let me put it to you this way: at some point, I decided that I needed to have a par stock of three differently flavored pints in the freezer. It may have gotten a little out of hand.)
I needed to make a new go-to dessert. A dessert that isn’t the complete antithesis of my “fitness goals.” A dessert that’s as easy as taking it out of the fridge whenever I (and/or my vegetarian boyfriend) want it. A dessert that excites me the way Ben and Jerry know how.
Sitting in my fridge right now is this beauty: Lavender-Coconut Panna Cotta with Ported Cherries. There are two ingredients in this dessert that make fine lines even finer: lavender and agar-agar. I haven’t truly worked with either too much since my culinary school days; even then, whatever I made with those ingredients tended to come out like one of those jelly soaps from Lush Cosmetics that I loved so much. But this recipe comes out like smooth, luxurious silk.
Lavender-Coconut Panna Cotta with Ported Cherries
- 1/3 cup dried cherries
- ½ cup tawny port
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 teaspoon cracked black pepper
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 1 cup coconut milk
- 2 tablespoons honey
- 1 teaspoon lavender buds
- 2 tablespoons coconut liqueur
- 1 teaspoon agar agar
- 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
In an airtight container, combine cherries, port, vanilla and pepper. Allow to macerate, or break down by soaking overnight or until cherries become reconstituted and fairly plump. Grease molds with oil and wipe away excess with paper towels.
In a small pot, combine cream, coconut milk, honey and lavender. Bring mixture to a rolling boil over medium-high heat, about 10-12 minutes. Remove from heat and add liqueur. Allow mixture to steep for 5 minutes.
Strain mixture through mesh strainer and return to pot over low heat. Transfer 4 teaspoons of hot mixture to a small bowl and add agar agar. Stir/whisk until agar agar fully dissolves and there are no lumps. Remove cream mixture from heat and add paste to mixture. Whisk until mixture is smooth but thickened.
Pour mixture through fine mesh strainer into oiled molds. Cover and allow to set in fridge until cool, about 30 minutes. Gently pull sides of panna cotta away from mold to aid in removal. Serve flat-side-down with cherries and macerating liquid spooned on top.