I caught a glimpse of them out of the corner of my eye. It seems like yesterday that I was asking the vendor at a local farm market if the blood oranges had arrived yet, only to be told it would be a couple more weeks.
And here we are now with the season ending.
I think it might take moving to California to truly appreciate citrus. Heck, maybe it takes moving to someplace like the Central Valley. (Although, I was equally excited about this season when we lived in the Bay.)
There are so many varieties, so many bright colors. It’s such a welcomed sight and taste during a season that is void of other favorites like berries and cherries.
Those last few lonely bags of blood oranges were staring at me, begging me to make one last thing before their season was over.
I’ve never made panna cotta before. I’ve eaten a lot of it. Most notably the Brazilian version called pudim.
For some reason, when I got those oranges, I was inspired to try something new. I needed a bit of a kitchen adventure.
After researching options that were vanilla after vanilla, instead I decided to add that light, yet distinct, licorice flavor that can only come from anise. It works really well with citrus, by the way.
In this case, I used anise extract. I know extracts aren’t all that common for me, but I bought some around the holidays to make cookies and I needed more ways to use it. You can accomplish the same flavor by steeping whole star anise in the milk if you wish. (Just be sure you warm it back up after it steeps a while before adding it the gelatin.)
Panna cotta is super simple, although getting out of the mold can be tricky at times. I could use some more practice, but to be honest I think a better way might be to avoid it all together. This dessert can be eaten like pudding, right out of the cup. No pressure for the perfect flip and release required.
Despite this recipe being a way for me to celebrate an end to winter, I’m thinking it may have sparked a summer of panna cotta. Given that it’s a stove top and chilled dessert, it’s an ideal fit for the upcoming season.
Anise Blood Orange Panna Cotta
Makes 4 servings
What you’ll need:
4 tablespoons ice cold water
2 teaspoons unflavored gelatin (about 1 packet)
2 cups half-and-half
1/3 cup superfine granulated sugar
1 teaspoon orange zest
1/2 teaspoon anise extract
Segments from 2 blood oranges, chopped
1/4 cup blood orange juice
1/4 cup superfine granulated sugar
1/4 cup water
How to make it:
Add the cold water to a large bowl and sprinkle in the gelatin. Let sit while you warm the half-and-half.
Stir together the half-and-half and 1/3 cup sugar in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Continue to stir until the sugar dissolves completely and the liquid just begins to simmer causing the surface to quiver. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the orange zest and anise extract.
Whisk the warm liquid into the bowl with the gelatin until it is completely dissolved.
Brush the inside of ramekins or similar containers (that hold at least 8 ounces each) with cooking oil. Any type that isn’t strongly flavored will work. Pour an equal amount of the liquid into each container. Refrigerate for at least 4 hours, until firm. It might take longer, depending on your refrigerator.
While the panna cotta firms up, make the sauce. Stir together the oranges, orange juice, 1/4 cup of sugar, and water in a medium sauce pan. Bring to a boil over medium heat. Continue to boil, stirring often, for 7 minutes, until it begins to thicken and coat the back of a spoon. Transfer to a heat-safe container and refrigerate until ready to use. It will continue to thicken as it cools.
Gently run a butter knife around the outside of each panna cotta and invert on a plate to remove from the mold. Top each with an equal amount of chilled blood orange sauce. Or you can add the sauce to the ramekin and eat it from there without removing the panna cotta from the mold.