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June for me has always been the languid, unending heart of summer — a month you sip slowly and cup in your hands like a batch of blueberries.  But this year, I don’t know where my June has gone.  I somehow managed to take four business trips, cooking for two Comedy Kitchen shows, celebrate both the S.O.’s and my birthday, and celebrate our anniversary.  But between all of those goings-on, I’ve barely been able to spend a day in the kitchen for The Otium.

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So when I finally found the time to treat myself to a day of cooking, I also decided to treat myself to something decadent.  And to me, “decadent” means rich, thick, unctuous, unapologetic cream.  And there’s no better way to showcase a good cream than a panna cotta.

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This version is flavored with plump summer blackberries and just enough fresh oregano to produce a hint of curiosity when you savor a spoonful of the panna cotta.  This little treat is rich and decadent, like I hoped it would be, but also bright and refreshing on a warm summer day.

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What I really love about panna cotta, though, is that it is unbelievably easy to make, yet sounds so elegant.  This recipe is a bit lean on sugar, as I don’t like overtly-sweet desserts.  So if you’re a real sweet tooth, add a couple extra tablespoons of sugar.  You could also drizzle some honey on top of the finished product.

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I could go on forever about how much this dessert saved my June.  But I’ll just keep this post short and sweet… like this recipe.  P.S. I am obsessed with these family heirloom coffee cups and stemware, bearing my grandfather’s initials etched onto the sides.

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Blackberry Oregano Panna Cotta

Makes 6 servings | Cook time 15 min + 2 hr refrigeration | Adapted from David Lebovitz

Ingredients

  • 4 C cream
  • 1/2 C sugar
  • 1/3 C blackberries
  • 1 + 1/2 tsp roughly chopped fresh oregano (or 3 tsp dried)
  • 1 vanilla bean or 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 packets unflavored gelatin (about 4 1/2 tsp)
  • 6 Tbsp cold water
  • vegetable oil (optional)
  • extra blackberries, oregano, honey, or whipped cream for garnish (optional)

Directions

  1. Place cream, sugar, blackberries, and oregano into large saucepan.  Slice vanilla bean, scrape seeds.  Add vanilla pod and seeds to saucepan.  Mix well.
  2. Cook cream mixture over medium heat until it is thickened and just begins to boil.  Crush blackberries during cooking to release their flavor and color.
  3. While cream is cooking, sprinkle gelatin over cold water in a small bowl.  Mix until gelatin is dissolved.  If you wish to serve panna cotta unmolded, lightly oil custard or serving cups with a neutral-tasting vegetable oil.
  4. Once the cream mixture has been removed from heat, pour it into a large bowl through a fine mesh sieve to remove the oregano leaves, blackberry pulp and seeds, and vanilla pod.
  5. Add gelatin to cream, and whisk to a smooth consistency.  Pour mixture into custard cups or molds (I just used coffee cups).
  6. Refrigerate until firm, about 2 hours.  I find panna cotta straight from the fridge to be too cold, so I’d suggest letting them sit at room temperature for about 10 minutes before serving.
  7. Garnish with extra blackberries or oregano, honey, or a dollop of whipped cream, if desired.

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