saffron and cardamom panna cotta

Joey bought me a new pair of boots over the holiday. They are red, and they have a bit of heel to them, and we are coming to call them the ass-kicking boots. Not ass-kicking necessarily because they are lovely, which they are, but because ass-kicking is literally what I’m needing to do these days. Because any thought I might have had of shrinking off into the corner and fading away for a little while (which is sometimes my habit) is totally not possible. Because every time holds an education, and my education for now seems to be about standing taller and speaking louder and being very very clear about what I’m trying to get across.

I’ve been singing in the car a lot, just to practice my loudness. I’ve been singing really, really loudly.

Last night I was walking out the door to a selectboard meeting. It was before six, and pizza was just coming out of the oven, and the kitchen was feeling so warm and so full of Joey and the girls. I stuffed a bit of mozzarella cheese into my mouth, called it dinner, and put on my coat to make my way into the cold. “Your boots are over here.” Joey pointed to the my boots in the special corner of the kitchen. But I was tired, and feeling quiet, and I left the ass-kicking boots at home.

In the 8 months since I started working for the town, there have been several issues that have come up. Each time, there are people with concerns–always justified, and they rages or politely express their concerns depending on the person and the issue, and I listen and I research and I try to figure out the closest thing to the right answer on where to go with the issue. Then I agree or disagree with those who are raging, and I work and work to compose my thoughts into some sort of answer as to why I came to the decision that I did. In every case so far, it feels like these decisions will make or break everything–that if I make the wrong decision, the world will crumble around me. And then the issue passes, decisions are made and the world moves on. I am looking forward to having some perspective on this process, to having the time behind me that helps me to take a breath and understand that all of this is simply a process, that all I can do is make sure that I am educated on an issue and that I make a decision that I can stand behind. And because I am elected, that I make a decision that others can stand behind as well.

People ask me how I like this job–and if I’m sorry that I ran for the board. I always answer that it is the hardest thing that I do, and that no, like is not the word that I would use. When money and property are the topic of discussion, the most difficult part of a person seems to emerge, and it is this part of the person that I am talking to most days lately. But I am also happy to be where I am, and if this is a way that I can contribute to my community, then here I am.

It’s been a little rough lately though. The boots help. And of course, I’ve been making puddings and panna cottas a lot. Because they are the antithesis of all of this. Pudding is a warm and quiet corner and no need to say a word. There’s no responsibility there–only smooth and milky sweetness.

And then there’s the saffron. Oh the saffron! Monica Bhide says that if you can taste the saffron, it’s too much saffron, but I disagree. The feel, the smell, this color–it all transports me in the most wonderful way. Last year in Istanbul I stood in a little spice stand trying to decide how much real saffron to buy, and 18 dollars seemed like a lot to spend on such a little vial of spice. There was cheaper saffron, but this squat man in a sweater vest made us tea from the good saffron, and I wanted to bathe in it–it was that good. And now, in January, so so enmeshed and snowed in in this town, 18 dollars is nothing, and I’m glad I spent it. Those 18 dollars bring me to another altogether, and that’s a whole lot less than a plane ticket.

Spice and pudding. My favorite combination for today.

Saffron and Cardamom Panna Cotta
from Alice Medrich, Pure Dessert

3 1/2 cups heavy cream
1/2 cup sugar
pinch of salt
5 cardamom pods
slightly rounded 1/8 teaspoon crushed saffron threads
1 cup whole milk
2 1/2 teaspoons unflavored gelatin
1 cinnamon stick

In a small saucepan, heat the cream, sugar, and salt until simmering–stirring to dissolve the sugar. Remove the pot from heat and add the cardamom pods and saffron. Cover, and let it steep for 25 minutes. Meanwhile, pour the milk into a small bowl and sprinkle the gelatin over it. Don’t stir–set aside and let it sit for 10 minutes.
Add the milk and gelatin to the cream mixture and reheat until simmering, stirring to dissolve the gelatin. Strain the mixture into a bowl and discard the cardamom pods. Set the bowl over a bowl of ice water and and stir until the mixture cools. Keep adding more ice as it melts until the mixture registers right around 60 degrees on a thermometer, or is cooler than room temperature if you are testing it with your finger.
Divide the mixture between 6 small bowls or ramekins. Cover with plastic wrap and chill for at least 4 hours. Grate a bit of cinnamon over each dish before serving.


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