Serious Eats: Recipes

Cook the Book: Fresh Basil Panna Cotta

[Photographs: Caroline Russock]

Some time into Cathy Erway's Not Eating Out in New York project she was faced with a big challenge. Recently single, she realized that going out for dinner with a potential suitor wasn't an option. She was forced to come up with creative ways to date that didn't involve the classic dinner and a movie, or at least not the dinner part.

She decided that instead of going out to a fancy meal she could replicate the experience at home and after months of nonstop cooking she was up to the task. The first time she put her romantic kitchen skills to the test involved a batch of basil-infused ice cream. The date didn't become a lasting love, but the recipe was a hit.

This Fresh Basil Panna Cotta from The Art of Eating In is inspired by that ice cream date.

Panna cotta is an Italian dessert made by simmering cream and sugar together and then blending in gelatin so the texture is transformed into something that resembles a thick sweet custard. Cathy's panna cotta is infused with basil, an herb Italians consider to be a symbol of love, making it an ideal way to end a dinner at home date.

Panna cotta can be successfully executed by even the most pastry-shy cooks because it requires nothing more than a quick simmer and a good long chill in the fridge. The cream can be infused with anything your heart desires—but basil is pretty romantic.

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