Thursday, February 14, 2013

Vanilla Bean Panna Cotta & Amaretti Brownies

Valentine’s Day. Again.

Love is the condition in which the happiness of another person is essential to your own. 
- Robert Heinlein 

Valentine’s Day. This evokes a great philosophical debate chez nous year in and year out. Do we or don’t we? To Valentine’s Day or not to Valentine’s Day? I am led to believe by those willing to convince me that this day is no day at all, that if I surrender, give in to the commercial greed and false proclamations of so many admen, I somehow put our love at risk, laugh at the seriousness of the glue that holds our couple together, relinquish our passion to someone else who dares dictate how and when we declare our love. The sceptics surround me on every side, closing in, yet I glance up and smile sweetly, nodding in ostensible agreement all the while dreaming romantic dreams of my man.
Go ahead, just try and convince me. I surrender to your words. Wrap me in your arms and tell me that the day means nothing to you at all, that no one can put limits or restrictions, obligations or rules on the expression of your feelings. Tell me that you desire me every day and you need no one at all to hand you an opportunity to show me just how much. But (just this once) recognize this day with a gift or a sign, no matter how small, just because you know what it means to me, a single sentimental gesture to acknowledge the expectation that flutters in my heart, and I promise you that in return I will agree with you about the nothingness of Valentine’s Day every single day for the rest of the year.

Ah, Valentine’s Day. Who knows just precisely how or when or where you began, who proclaimed this as the day of love, billets doux, sweet nothings, gentle whispers and fervent glances. And to what import? Did Mark Antony need Valentine’s Day to pull Cleopatra into his lustful embrace? Did Romeo need Valentine’s Day to inspire him to declare his passion for the young Juliet hovering breathlessly above in the moonlight? Did Valentine’s Day stir Napoleon’s amour for Josephine or elicit Darcy’s throwing himself at Elizabeth’s feet? No, I dare say not. It is true that one does not need this day to be a lover, to express desire, to recount unhesitatingly, ardently, passionately one’s undying love. No, not at all.

And as far as famous lovers go, we may be more Lucy and Ricky, our couple that quirky balance of fiery and comical, or George Burns and Gracie Allen, a little bit like some zany old-fashioned sitcom. Or even Julia and Paul Child, playful and creative and standing out from the crowd like two rare and exotic creatures, more intellectual than glamorous, more ordinary than star crossed, more frivolity and heartfelt emotion than dark, brooding vamp and suave Casanova. But whoever or whatever the influence, we have never needed Valentine’s Day as a pretense to offer each other gifts, pop open the Champagne or snuggle up together. Yet…. yet… there is still something about Valentine’s Day that stirs up my womanly desires, lights the fire within, brings out the fluttering young girl in me again.

Like a faded romance novel or timeworn love story, I want him to smother me with kisses, shower me with baubles and sentimental gewgaws; I want to feel his soothing caress and his warm breath on my cheek as his love washes over me. But he is right. No exuberant display of emotion is necessary, not even diamonds and rubies are required, just his loving glance, my hand in his, a gentle squeeze, a careful, graceful acknowledgement of my frivolous desire to be pampered on this of all days and then we can move on to all the rest of the days of the year.

For it was not into my ear you whispered, but into my heart. 
It was not my lips you kissed, but my soul. 
Judy Garland 

* It’s the same story every year, and this Valentine’s Day is no different. Although he offers to take me out and bring me a voluptuous bouquet simply to make me happy, he believes none of it. Yes, it is the same story every year so I decided to republish an old Valentine’s Day post from 2011, only slightly altered, a bit like us.

Vanilla Bean Panna Cotta & Amaretti Brownies

Recipe Vanilla Bean Panna Cotta can be found here:
Changes: the seeds scraped out of one vanilla bean/pod replaced the liquid vanilla extract. Add the seeds with the 2 cups cream and the sugar to the warm cream/gelatin mixture in the pot and finish the recipe as indicated.

Make the Panna Cotta the day before making the dessert. Either divide the panna cotta evenly among 6 or 8 dessert glasses or ramekins or pour into a large, shallow baking dish if you want to add a layer of the panna cotta to a layer of brownie. Chill overnight in the refrigerator.

Recipe Amaretti Brownies can be found here:
Changes: The Amaretto can be replaced with 1 teaspoon vanilla extract or ½ teaspoon vanilla extract + ¼ teaspoon almond extract.

Allow the brownies to cool completely in the pan.

For the Valentine’s Day dessert, serve the glass of Vanilla Bean Panna Cotta with a dollop of very lightly sweetened or unsweetened whipped heavy cream and raspberries with a small round of Amaretti Brownie.

To create the layered dessert, using a round ring mold or cookie/biscuit cutter, cut out a round from the Amaretti Brownies per serving; carefully twist the mold and lift out brownie round and place on a dessert plate. Very carefully, using the same ring mold, cut out a round from the Vanilla Bean Panna Cotta and lift up using a spatula pushed underneath to lift it up and onto the brownie. Carefully but quickly slide the spatula out from under the panna cotta, aligning the ring mold over the brownie and lift. Serve immediately with a dollop of whipped cream and raspberries. If desired, place the ring mold with the slice of panna cotta over the brownie round and slide the ring down onto the brownie and reserve in the refrigerator in the ring mold to chill until ready to serve.


Rosa's Yummy Yums said...

A beautifully well written post! Your dessert is just exquisite.

Happy Valentine's Day, every day! ;-)



Rambling Tart said...

Isn't it a lovely thing to be able to celebrate or not celebrate as our hearts dictate? To KNOW that no matter what we do, our love is strong and sure and good. :-) Last year we had an All Out Valentine's Day. This year we share a bar of dark chocolate with roasted almonds. Both are good. :-)

Lisa said...

I stopped making a big deal about Valentine's Day once i hit 30. I mean, if you're alone on Valentine's Day, you're going to be alone the next day. If you're not alone, you won't be alone the next day LOL I used to 'FREAK' (inwardly - just grovel, outwardly) if my sig other didn't reciprocate to the degree I did, pre-30.

In any event..ordering a pizza and snuggling up to a movie is a great V-Day to me! I would most certainly want these after the pizza! OMG, Jamie vanilla panna cotta and Amaretti brownies is sweet perfection! It looks sensational!

Brian @ A Thought For Food said...

Eric and I never go out or exchange gifts, but we definitely like to do something special. Last night, we cooked scallops and had some wine and just relaxed. It was just what we needed. Well, we could have gone for this panna cotta, but I'm just reading this now. :-(

Kate | Food Babbles said...

This post is just beautiful. The writing, the recipe, the pictures. Just lovely! I am not big on Valentine's day. Never have been. My husband is so sweet and attentive to the little details of life and making sure I feel loved every day that Valentine's day doesn't feel like anything different than the norm. I adore panna cotta and that alone would have lured me in but those amaretti brownies are what truly put this recipe over the top for me. I will definitely be making this lovely dessert.

Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella said...

Jamie, I adore that tradition of yours! We rarely go out that evening. In fact, we waited until the next evening to do everything! :D

Paula @ Vintage Kitchen said...

The controversy is what keeps this day going strong probably. I love the plate and spoon in that first pic, gorgeous! And I can´t wait to make those amaretti brownies!

Rose said...

Crazy dessert! I love it!!

Meeta K. Wolff said...

Yes that us the question isn't it? I used to be a romantic but grew up to be a realist LOL! But I'd be your Valentine if you made me these :o)

Ivy said...

Personally I am not a fan of Valentines. It's very commercial and if there is true love between a couple they don't need this day to celebrate but every day should be special with small gestures of love. However, your dessert is exceptional for any special occasion.

JanetFCTC said...

Awww, what a sweet post. And I completely agree!

And I completely want this all for dessert for like the next three weeks


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