Now that all my friends completely associate me with nothing but food, I get gifts of exotic foods and ingredients. A good friend of mine went to Mauritius over the past Christmas break and brought me a packet of good quality Vanilla Beans. I have tried to find Vanilla beans in my area and the only place that sold them was Whole Foods but the packet was exorbitant and I was very disappointed to find that the beans were dry and not that flavorful. So I really appreciated getting these beans and for the past month I have been thinking about how best to use them. Yesterday I made Panna Cotta with them but I made it relatively healthier by reducing the amount of heavy cream that goes into them. I used half and half and so even though it was not completely a low calorie dessert, it was a healthier Panna Cotta than the kind you night find in a fancy restaurant. It came out really creamy and delicious and the combination of a Mango Gelée on top made it absolutely heavenly! It is a surprisingly easy dessert but it tastes fantastic!
1. 3 cups of half and half
2. 1 vanilla bean
3. 1/2 cup sugar
4. 2 teaspoons unflavored gelatin
5. 1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt (no added sugar)
6. ½ cup of canned mango pulp (I used canned Alfonso Mango pulp – available at South Asian Stores)
1. In a medium sized sauce pan, pour 2 cups of half and half and cook it on very low heat till it comes to a simmer. Using a whisk, keep stirring the contents of the sauce pan (keep one cup of half and half for use later).
4. Add the Vanilla seeds to sauce pan and also add the Vanilla Bean to the half and half and stir. Continue letting this liquid cook on very low heat and stir with the whisk. Now add the sugar (use less if you don’t want the dessert to be too sweet) and stir.
8. Stir the 1/2 cup of Greek yogurt into the sauce pan and stir thoroughly. Let this liquid cool down for 10 minutes (do not leave it for too long otherwise the gelatin will make it set in the sauce pan).
9. Pour the Vanilla infused liquid into whatever shaped molds you would like the Panna Cotta to turn out. I used deep wine glasses. You could also use a muffin pan to make small individual servings.
10. Cover the molds with a plastic wrap and let them set in the refrigerator for about 5-6 hours.
11. To make the Mango Gelee, open the can of mango pulp.
13. Mix the liquid gelatin in the Mango pulp and stir thoroughly.
14. Pour a layer of Mango pulp and gelatin mixture over each of the Panna Cotta molds.
15. Cover the molds with plastic wrap again and place in the refrigerator for another 3-4 hours.
16. Serve the Panna Cotta cold (straight out of the refrigerator) and if you’d like you could garnish it with a little bit of fresh Mango or a sprig of mint. Enjoy!