My first entry for the monthly Is My Blog Burning?, and the category is orange. Hmm... now that's a challenge, not because there are no interesting orange foods, but because there are so many! Carrots, pumpkin, sweet potato, oranges, mandarins, peaches, nectarines, mango, apricots... When I started thinking about fruits and vegetables that are naturally orange in color, I realized that they all have inherent sweetness in common. Some orange vegetables (like pumpkin and sweet potato) are used unashamedly in sweet desserts; others like carrots often have their natural sweetness subtly enhanced by glazing before being served as a savory side dish. The orange fruits, similarly, represent some of the most chin-drippingly juicy, sweet and succulent of all fruits. In fact three of them - mangoes, peaches and apricots - make it into my top-ten list of would-even-sell-my-mother-for-them favorite foods. There are of course other things that are orange, like Irn Bru, salmon eggs and Cheez-its, but somehow these don't seem to strike to the heart of the orange matter like fruits and vegetables do. So that part decided, I had the difficult task of choosing which orange-hued fruit or vegetable to showcase. I wanted to do something local and seasonal, but a quick trip to the supermarket confirmed that there is nothing local and seasonal here in Scotland, apart from a few stalks of rhubarb, which most definitely aren't orange. So that idea out the window, and spying a little packet of dried apricots florescently beckoning to me from the baking aisle, I decided to go for the anthithesis of local, and create escape food. So here it is, as exotic and as orange as I could make it:
Cardamom and Honey Stewed Apricots with Buttermilk-Rosewater Panna Cotta
1 lb dried apricots
10 cardamom pods
2 cups orange juice
1 cup water
1 cup mild floral honey, preferably orange-blossom
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
1 1/2 cups buttermilk
1 packet (2 1/2 teaspoons or 11.7 grams) powdered gelatine
1/3 cup sugar
1 tablespoon rosewater
Combine the apricots, cardamom, orange juice and water in a saucepan and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Cook, shaking the pan instead of stirring, for 25-30 minutes, or until the apricots are swollen and plump and the liquid is greatly reduced. Add the honey and continue to cook until the liquid bubbles thickly, about 10 more minutes. Remove from the heat and let cool.
Meanwhile, pour the cream into a pot and sprinkle the gelatin over the top. Allow it to soften for about 10 minutes, then add the sugar and heat on medium until both the gelatin and the sugar have dissolved. Remove from the heat, stir in the buttermilk and the rosewater, and pour into 6 oiled small bowls or ramekins. Put these in the fridge and allow to chill until completely set, about 3 hours.
To serve, unmold a panna cotta onto a plate, coaxing it with a spoon if it stubbornly refuses, and spoon some room-temperature apricots and honey over the top. You can either remove the cardamom pods or leave them in for visual appeal. Although this is very sweet and creamy, something about the tanginess of the buttermilk and fruit leaves you feeling quite refreshed, so it would be a good dessert to end a heavy meal. Me, of course, I've been eating it for breakfast, lunch and dinner!
Note: I think this would take very well to alterations. You could no doubt substitute another spice like ginger or cinnamon for the cardamom, apricot nectar for the orange juice, yogurt for the buttermilk, vanilla for the rosewater, splenda for the sugar... you get the picture.