I almost lost it in the grocery store over blueberries this week. You know you’ve hit a rough patch when the sight of fat, plump blueberries makes you feel like someone’s taken a monkey wrench to your insides.
Blueberries were Mama’s favorite fruit, hands-down. She loved blueberries in all forms: pie, coffeecake, shortcake, milkshake, naked by the fistful. Those blueberries in the store would have delighted her, because they were enormous specimens that looked so ripe they were almost full to bursting. Berry season is upon us, and I felt sad that this year, she’s missing it. I wish she’d been around to have one more slice of pie, preferably with a big scoop of ice cream on the side. But that isn’t the way things go, is it? It doesn’t seem fair that we don’t get to choose our last meal on this Earth.
I do find a little bit of solace in the fact that one of the last things I made for Mama did contain her beloved blueberry. I’m grateful for that, even though this dessert is decidedly healthier than pie. In fact, this blueberry panna cotta is downright virtuous–it doesn’t contain cream or tons of sugar or anything remotely bad for you. Of course, I remedied that by serving sweetened whipped cream on top of the whole business, but hey, a girl deserves to live a little.
When I first brought this dessert to the table, we laughed a bit at the sight of it, because it is audaciously purple. This dessert announces itself in bright capital letters: I AM BLUEBERRY. HEAR ME ROAR.
In most instances, I don’t think humans are meant to eat purple food. Think about it. Purple food is usually something hideously synthetic, like circus cotton candy or jawbreakers or puckery grape-flavored bubble gum. Purple food is jarring on the eyeballs and should be treated with a healthy dose of suspicion.
Not in this case, though. This dessert is purple in the most natural of ways, powered merely by fruit and enhanced by the barest amount of sugar.
A word about sugar–you’ll need to tinker with the amount of sugar you add to this recipe. Let the sweetness of your blueberries be your guide. If you get a tart box of blueberries, you’ll need to lean a little heavier on the sugar, so taste and adjust as you go.
Serve this to someone with a healthy sense of humor and a love of all things blueberry. It’s sure to please.
I’m grateful I served it to exactly the right person.
Blueberry Yogurt Panna Cotta
from Cookfresh Summer 2015
2 teaspoons unflavored powdered gelatin
2 pints blueberries, rinsed and dried, divided
1/3 cup sugar
1/2 cup plain Greek-style yogurt
sweetened whipped cream and fresh blueberries, to serve
Pour 3 tablespoons water into a small cup. Sprinkle gelatin over and let it sit until gelatin plumps up, about 3 minutes.
Pile 1 1/2 pints of the blueberries, the sugar and 3 tablespoons water in a medium saucepan. Cook, stirring, over medium-low heat until the sugar is dissolved and the fruit is soft and juicy, about 3-5 minutes. Pour the warm mixture into a food processor or blender and process until smooth. Taste and add more sugar if necessary.
Strain the mixture through a fine-mesh sieve, pressing down with a spoon to extract as much as possible. Discard solids. (you should have about 2 1/4 cups of strained mixture).
Add softened gelatin mixture to warm blueberry mixture, stirring well. Set aside to cool slightly, about 5-10 minutes. Whisk in the yogurt until blended.
Pour mixture into 4 small ramekins. Cover and refrigerate until firm. To serve, run a small knife around the edge of the ramekins. Dip the bottoms of the ramekins briefly into hot water and unmold on plates. Serve with remaining fresh blueberries and whipped cream, if desired.