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Buttermilk Panna Cotta, Cherries, Pistachios and Basil

Prepare this recipe in late spring or summer, when cherries reach their seasonal peak. Created by Chef Tyler Florence, the dessert combines creamy buttermilk panna cotta and poached cherries with a garnish of crunchy pistachios and fresh basil buds.

Ingredients:

For the panna cotta:

  • 1 envelope (1/4 oz.) powdered gelatin
  • 2 cups buttermilk
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 3/4 cup superfine sugar
  • 1/2 tsp. grated lemon zest
  • 2 vanilla beans, split and scraped
  • Nonstick cooking spray

For the poached cherries:

  • 2 cups California Pinot Noir
  • 1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 vanilla bean, split and scraped
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 4 whole cloves
  • 3-inch strip orange peel
  • 1 lb. fresh cherries, pitted
  •  
  • 1/2 cup tapioca pearls
  • 1/4 cup shelled unsalted pistachios
  • 2 Tbs. rock salt
  • Fresh basil buds for garnish
  • Extra-virgin olive oil for garnish

Directions:

To prepare the panna cotta, put the gelatin in a small bowl and add 1/2 cup of the buttermilk. Whisk to combine and set aside. In a medium pot, combine the remaining 1 1/2 cups buttermilk with the cream, superfine sugar, lemon zest and vanilla beans (both seeds and pods). Set over high heat and bring to a boil. Then reduce the heat and simmer for 5 minutes. Add the gelatin mixture and whisk well. Pass the mixture through a strainer into a bowl to remove any lumps, and discard the vanilla pods. Spray 8 small ramekins lightly with nonstick cooking spray, and divide the panna cotta evenly among them. Refrigerate until set, 3 to 4 hours.

To poach the cherries, in a medium saucepan, combine the wine, granulated sugar, vanilla bean (both seeds and pod), cinnamon stick, cloves and orange peel. Set over high heat and bring to a simmer, then add the cherries. Reduce the heat and simmer, partially covered, until the cherries are plump and tender, about 7 minutes. Remove from the heat and strain, reserving the liquid. Set the cherries aside and discard the cinnamon stick, cloves, vanilla pod and orange peel. Return the poaching liquid to the saucepan and set aside.

To prepare the tapioca pearls, soak the tapioca pearls in cold water to cover for 45 minutes. Then drain and add them to the reserved cherry poaching liquid in the saucepan. Set over high heat and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to a bare simmer and gently cook the tapioca for 30 minutes. Remove from the heat and allow the tapioca to steep in the red wine mixture. Strain before serving, reserving the liquid.

To crush the pistachios, combine the pistachios and rock salt in a mortar and gently crush together with a pestle.

To assemble, carefully unmold the panna cottas onto individual plates. Top each one with some poached cherries, some of the tapioca pearls and some of the cherry poaching liquid. Garnish with crushed salted pistachios, basil buds and a few drops of extra-virgin olive oil. Serves 8.

Adapted from Tyler Florence Fresh, by Tyler Florence (Clarkson Potter, 2012).