The beginning is always exciting. When you move to another country – where things are much different to what you are used to -, you first set out to explore everything new. And of course “everything”, for folks like me, first and foremost means food. While you become accustomed to fruits you never had seen before, meat cuts that sounded bizarre, cans that make you shiver, vegetables who’s names you can’t pronounce and baked goods that don’t resemble the ones you used to make back home – very, very slowly the euphoria shrivels and makes space for your longings.
There were a lot of foods, after I had moved across the big pond, that I missed early on. Cheese, for one. (Which, looking back, is ok. I turned that lack into a business that I still passionately love. And that provides me with nothing but the best cheeses.) White asparagus. Reineclaudes and mirabelles. Horse meat (and yes, i know some can’t believe that). My mom’s quince gelée. Lattich. Mangold. Apples and cherries and red currants I actually could see grow and ripen on the tree or bush, rather than just have it shipped from some far away place. I missed foraging for mushrooms and wild herbs. I missed my daily walk to the bakery and the über fresh breads for breakfast.
I still miss those (and other) things. But I made a point to stop complaining, and instead start enjoying all the many goods available here and now. I use tomatillos, star fruit, various citrus, mangoes. I experiment with boniato and yuca, lemongrass and long beans. I tend to bake more than I ever used to, and to find local and regional producers who offer edibles that make sense. It is a challenge, and to me that’s a good thing.
To this day, I see bountiful plum orchards in my dreams every now and then. And, as every early fall, I start practicing to imagine fire roasted chestnuts – eaten straight out of a paper bag on the street – without falling into a light to medium depression. But I am getting better. By now I can read recipes for stone fruit tarts or gourd soups without stumbling.
By now I also am able to remember an old, familiar recipe for Panna Cotta* with a Mixed Berries & Honey Coulis and, instead of start day dreaming, to immediately translate it into one that features Key limes instead of the (unavailable). Because there’s a box full of Key limes – grown right here where I am – waiting in my kitchen. – So, yes, always look at the bright side. And stop complaining.
Panna Cotta with Key Lime, Honey & Pistachios
(makes 8 servings)
- 8 pce Key limes
- 2 cups heavy cream
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1/2 cup whole milk
- 2 1/2 tsp powdered gelatin
- 1 1/2 cups whole milk
- 4 tbsp raw honey
- 2 oz pistachios, shelled
- 8 ramequin forms
Wash and dry Key limes. Carefully grate zest, making sure not to get any of the white (bitter) part. Set aside.
Juice 4 Key limes, set aside.
Pour heavy cream into a medium pan, add salt and Key lime zest. Stirring occasionally, bring to a boil. Cover pan with a lid, remove from heat and let rest 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, pour 1/2 cup milk into a bowl. Sprinkle gelation on top. Let rest 10 minutes.
Take lid off the pan with the cream mixture, put back onto the stove and, at medium to high, bring to a simmer, stirring occasionally. Add the liquid to the milk and gelatin mix, and stir until gelatin has dissolved.
Add 1 1/2 cups milk (cold) and Key lime juice. Stir well..
Strain mixture into a pitcher. Divide liquid between the ramequin forms. Cover forms with plastic wrap. Refrigerate 12 hours.
Just before serving, chop pistachios coarsely.
To serve, remove Panna Cotta from the form with the help of a sharp knife. Set on a plate, sprinkle pistachios on top, and drizzle with honey. Enjoy!
*This version of “cooked cream” is one for people who do like their sweets not too sweet. You can make it sweeter by serving it with more honey. It’s texture is an extra pleasure: The dessert is wobbly and über smooth. Delicious!