The pomegranates were ripening, falling to the ancient staircase below with a thump. The heavy fruit split apart on impact, exposing crimson seeds and fleshy insides. There was a tree laden with fruit just outside the casale in Tuscany – the magical place where I was staying almost exactly one month ago.
The skin of these fruits wasn’t the familiar mottled, deeply red color of the ones I buy in late fall from produce bins in the grocery store; these were yellow tinged with green, looking more like extra-large Golden Delicious apples than what I’ve come to recognize as pomegranates. Pomegranates are melograno in Italian, derived from the Latin word for apple.
When I first noticed the tree I didn’t recognize the fruits; it wasn’t until I saw them cracked open on the ground that I saw what they were. The property, surrounded by vineyards, was outlined with hedges of bay laurel, rosemary and oleander. All plants that love the Mediterranean climate as much as pomegranates do.
I was looking through a stack of old Donna Hay magazines (that somehow made it through moving and the huge heave-ho before and after) and saw a recipe in issue #40 that inspired the recipe here.
Panna cotta really is the little white dress of desserts. Basic, but yet kind of elegant; ready to be accessorized for any number of occasions. Like sweetening the end of a simple meal at home or punctuating a night of celebrating with company.
I love the combination of tangy sweet-sour syrup with the pure taste of sweet cream.
- 1 packet powdered gelatin (2 1/2 teaspoons)
- 1 1/4 cups unsweetened pomegranate juice
- 2 tablespoons plus 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 2 cups heavy cream
- 1/2 cup confectioner's sugar
- 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
- Fresh pomegranate seeds
- Lightly coat 6 x 1/2-cup molds or ramekins with neutral-tasting oil.
- Sprinkle 1/2 teaspoon of the gelatin over 2 teaspoons water in a small dish and let stand a few minutes to soften and dissolve.
- Combine 1/4 cup of the pomegranate juice with the granulated sugar in a small saucepan; stir to dissolve sugar and heat just to a simmer. Stir in the gelatin mixture over low heat until it dissolves in the juice, then divide into the molds (about a scant tablespoon in each). Place the molds on a baking sheet and refrigerate until set, about 2 hours.
- Dissolve the remaining 2 teaspoos gelatin in a small dish with 1 tablespoon water.
- Heat the cream, confectioner's sugar and salt in a small saucepan over medium heat, stirring to dissolve sugar. Heat until very warm, but not boiling. Stir in the gelatin until it dissolves. Pour the cream through a fine strainer into a container with a pouring spout, such as a 4 cup Pyrex measuring cup. Set aside to cool completely.
- Pour the cream over the pomegranate jelly in the molds, dividing evenly. Cover gently with plastic wrap and replace in the refrigerator to chill and set, at least 4 hours.
- About an hour before serving, put the remaining 1 cup pomegranate juice in a small saucepan with the remaining 1/2 cup granulated sugar. Bring to a boil and continue cooking until reduced in volume by half (you should have 1/2 cup syrup); cool.
- To serve, dip the molds in very hot water for about 30 seconds (careful not to submerge). Run a small offset spatula or blade of a small, sharp knife around the edges of the panna cotta, then invert onto plates.
- Drizzle some pomegranate syrup over each, and sprinkle with pomegranate seeds.