Sour Cream Panna Cotta with Strawberry Compote

My decision to serve panna cotta at our recent Canada Day party was influenced by a culinary lesson learned in London: the simple goodness of panna cotta should not be discounted in lieu of flashier desserts.

Creamy, light-as-air-panna cotta is scrumptious on its own and even better when served with a seasonal fruit compote. These days I have all the local strawberries I could wish for, both in my backyard garden and at the markets.

Hence a patriotic red and white dessert made the final menu on July 1, but on merits far worthier than colour alone.

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Blood Orange Panna Cotta

Here’s a dessert I’ve never written about but has been a favourite of mine since I first learned to make it in a small bistro kitchen: Panna Cotta. Ironically, it was a French chef who taught me this classic Italian dessert, during my short stint as a pastry chef in my twentes.

I’ve always loved the Panna Cotta for it simplicity. It was one of the items on my daily prep list that I could breeze through and let my mind drift out of the cramped kitchen in the process. I’d open carton after carton of heavy cream, warm it slowly with sugar and vanilla bean and then whisk the hot cream into bloomed gelatine. From there I would pour the vanilla-scented cream into dozens and dozens of martini glasses and set them on racks in the refrigerator to chill.

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Fresh Strawberry Pie

What do you do when a kind neighbour gives you a morning’s work with his trusty backhoe, helping out with your backyard landscaping mess project? You make him a fresh strawberry pie, of course.

We started prepping for this dessert back in March when we learned how to blind bake a pie crust. I knew June would bring small local strawberries that were red to the core and as sweet as can be, and when that time came, I wanted to be able to serve them up in a fresh strawberry pie. I wanted it to be uncomplicated – no gelatine or cornstarch – just our beloved strawberries in pie form.

And what is the fun of making a pie or two if you can’t share them? So I did with my neighbour; and again, here with you today.

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Lemon Pudding with Raspberry Sauce

It’s been snowing all day in my corner of the world. The sky is grey and the snow is so thick that you can’t see more than a few feet in front of you when you step outdoors.

With a grey, blustery, wintry day ahead of me, I turn to the kitchen for warmth and I find a bag of lemons waiting for me. Lemons are in season right now, one of the only bright things produced in winter, which tells me that Mother Nature understands comfort food.

Surely She knew that a warm bowl of Lemon Pudding could bring a little ray of sunshine on a cold winter’s day.

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Chocolate Pavlova with Winter Fruits

November stormed in with a chip on her shoulder and brought a gale that toppled trees and ripped the roof of a business in the neighborhood.

We watched from the windows as gusts of wind effortlessly whipped neatly raked piles of leaves up in the air and tore branches off the trees in the back yard. The storm caused power outages over a broad area which left us in the cold for thirty long hours.

It wasn’t so bad, that first night without electricity. We brought our jack-o-lantern into the kitchen and I prepared ham and cheese sandwiches by its flickering light, which we grilled on the barbecue at dusk. We lit candles, sipped wine, and then turned in early for the night.

But the next 12 hours brought numb fingers, a shortage of morning coffee, and worry about the stash of summer produce in the deep freezer. In the end we made an investment in our homestead – a shiny orange Subaru generator – which sustained our fridge and freezer for the duration of the outage.

We got invited out for a lasagna feast on Saturday night, and I took care of dessert, thanks to a chocolate meringue I had baked off the day before. Turns out one can have a decadent dessert when absolutely nothing is functioning in the kitchen.

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