I bought half a peck of peaches at the farmer’s market last week. (Mike sent me with instructions to “buy lots of fruit.”) That was perhaps a bit too much for just the two of us. But I was in luck because I learned about a monthly vegetarian event called Veggie/Fruit a Month, and this month Susan of The Well-Seasoned Cook chose peaches for the theme.
Now I only had to decide what to make with these peaches. A crisp or a crumble or a cobbler seemed too obvious. I flipped through most of my cookbooks looking for inspiration. Then in Heidi Swanson’s Super Natural Cooking I saw a recipe for coconut panna cotta with summer berry coulis. Perfect.
Panna cotta means “cooked cream.” It’s an Italian dessert (I seem to be on a roll with those lately), wherein sweetened cream is mixed with gelatin and allowed to set. All manner of flavorings can be added. I changed Heidi’s recipe around a bit: nixing the cow milk in favor of all coconut, and switching the berry coulis out for peaches. But, like her recipe, I used agar flakes as Mike doesn’t eat gelatin. This works nicely though, because now it can be enjoyed by vegan and vegetarian alike. (And the meat-eaters too I suppose.) ;)
For the panna cotta:
- 1 14-ounce can coconut milk
- 2 tablespoons white sugar
- 1 tablespoon agar flakes
- neutral tasting oil or coconut oil
- Mix coconut milk and agar flakes in a small saucepan. Stir well. Let sit for 15 minutes to allow the agar flakes to soften. Meanwhile, lightly oil 4 small ramekins.
- Add the sugar and heat the mixture over medium-low heat until the milk begins to simmer. Allow to simmer for a few minutes while whisking well. Remove from heat and divide the coconut milk between the ramekins. Place ramekins in the refrigerator to cool and set.
For the peach coulis:
- 2 cups finely chopped fresh peaches plus 8 peach slices for garnish (~4 medium peaches)
- 1-2 tablespoons white sugar (depending on how ripe your peaches are)
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- Place all ingredients (minus the garnish-intended peach slices) in a small saucepan. Heat on medium-low until peaches have released their juices and the syrup begins to simmer. Simmer for 10 minutes then remove from heat. Allow to cool.
- Place peaches and syrup in a food processor and process until smooth. (Alternatively use a blender or immersion blender.) Move to refrigerator to cool.
When ready to serve:
- Spoon some of the peach coulis onto the center of a small plate.
- Set the bottom of a ramekin in hot water for 30-45 seconds. Run a butter knife around the edge of the ramekin. Invert the ramekin over the peach coulis and let the panna cotta slip out. (It may take a little shaking.)
- Top with more peach coulis and a couple peach slices for garnish.
- Repeat with the remaining ramekins and serve.
Heidi notes that if for some reason the agar does not completely dissolve, strain the coconut milk through a sieve and push the flakes through. Then continue to divide the mixture between the ramekins.
This was another recipe where I made this version with the pureed coulis, then decided that I wanted to try it without pureeing the peaches, then couldn’t decide which one I liked better. The panna cotta itself has a very creamy custardy mouthfeel, so pureed peaches led to a very smooth dessert. Leaving the peaches chopped adds some texture, although the peaches are still pretty soft. I should note that in both versions I peeled the peaches. I imagine if you left the skin on, you’d add more texture that way as well.
I think the recipe is also pretty adaptable in terms of flavors. I played around with infusing the coconut milk with ginger but couldn’t get the flavor to my liking. A little splash of vanilla in the coconut milk might be nice. You could play around with the flavors of the coulis too. Peach and thyme are frequently paired, maybe add a sprig of fresh thyme to the peaches while they’re cooking? Or add in some berries? Peach-blackberry coulis sounds good.