Italian Cooking & A Great Valentine’s Dessert

For Christmas my beau signed us up for a cooking class at the Institute of Culinary Education.  We went last night and it was so much fun!  The class focused on Italian cuisine.  We made bellinis, shrimp scampi, chicken piccata, sauteed spinach, roasted potatoes and panna cotta with berries.  There were 8 people in the class so it was pretty small and the chef was able to give everyone individual attention.  Chef Loren was a great instructor and his humor kept us all in good spirits. If you’re in NYC, you should check out ICE and their cooking classes.

If you need a special dessert for Valentine’s Day, I highly recommend trying this panna cotta.  The recipe and some photos are below.

Panna Cotta
Yield: 6 servings

– 3 tablespoons cold water
– 1 envelope (2 1/4 teaspoons) unflavored gelatin
– 1 3/4 cups heavy cream
– 3/4 cup milk
– 1/2 cup sugar
– 1/2 vanilla bean, split lengthwise, seeds scraped out
– 1 pinch salt

1.  Add water to a small bowl and sprinkle gelatin over the top.  Whisk to combine and let stand for 5 minutes to bloom the gelatin.
2.  Combine cream, milk, sugar, vanilla bean and salt into a small saucepan and bring to a simmer.  Thoroughly stir in softened gelatin.  Strain into a large liquid measuring cup and pour into 6 6oz ramekins (or martini glasses).
3.  Refrigerate for four hours and then unmold onto plates to serve (or serve right in martini glasses).

Macerated Berries
Yield : 1 pint

– 1 pint strawberries or blueberries (or a combo), rinsed, strawberries hulled and cut into smaller pieces
– 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
– 1/2 cup Grand Marnier

Combine all ingredients in a bowl and let sit at room temperature for 1 to 2 hours.  Stir occasionally.



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