I searched for quick recipes or ones that could be prepared well in advance, and finally came up with a menu.
For dessert, it would be buttermilk panna cotta with fresh blueberries.
The panna cottas turned out to be the piece de resistance of the evening. It could also be prepared up to two days ahead and had the added advantage of taking only about 20 minutes to assemble.
A classic Italian dessert, panna cotta (Italian for cooked cream) is a gloriously smooth custard made without eggs. It is bound with gelatin and typically served chilled.
The panna cotta recipe that follows is from Brian Alberg, chef at the Red Lion Inn in Stockbridge, Mass. He cleverly uses buttermilk to add a bright tang to this confection and to keep it from being cloying. Garnished with fresh blueberries and mint, this dessert is the answer when you want something that's quick, make-ahead and delicious.
BUTTERMILK PANNA COTTA WITH BLUEBERRIES
- Six 6-ounce ramekins
- Nonstick cooking spray
- 2 teaspoons (1/4 ounce envelope) powdered gelatin
- 2 tablespoons water
- 3/4 cup heavy cream
- 3/4 cup sugar
- 2 cups buttermilk (shake carton or bottle well before measuring)
- 1/4 teaspoon vanilla
- 1 1/2 cups blueberries
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 3/4 teaspoon grated lemon zest.
- 6 mint sprigs
Spray the insides of six 6-ounce (3/4 cup) ramekins or souffle cups with nonstick cooking spray. Place gelatin in a small bowl and cover with 2 tablespoons water to soften, about 5 minutes.
In a medium saucepan, whisk together cream and sugar and place over medium high heat. Stir until sugar dissolves and bring mixture to a good simmer. Remove from heat and stir in the gelatin until it has completely dissolved. Then stir in the buttermilk and vanilla. Transfer mixture to a large (about 4 cup) measuring cup with a spout and pour into the prepared ramekins.
Place ramekins on a baking sheet or tray, cover with plastic wrap, and chill until completely set, 6 hours or overnight. (Panna cottas can be made 2 days ahead. Keep covered and refrigerated.)
When ready to serve, toss blueberries, sugar and lemon zest together in a medium bowl. Have ready 6 dessert plates. Remove panna cottas from refrigerator and let stand at room temperature 10 minutes. To unmold, run a sharp knife around the inside edge of each ramekin. Fill a cake pan or pie plate with very hot water and dip the bottom of each ramekin in the water for about 10 seconds. Invert each ramekin onto the center of a dessert plate and gently lift off the dish. If panna cotta doesn't unmold, repeat dipping bottoms of ramekins in hot water.) Garnish each serving with blueberries and a mint sprig.