Tuesday, September 14, 2010

White Peach Panna Cotta

I recently learned of a new type of cheese becoming more available in the US which is low fat, low carb, a good source of protein and calcium and low calorie! It sounds too good to be true, doesn't it? It's called quark and is a European-style soft, fresh cheese similar to cream cheese but softer and not as tangy. It is available at Whole Foods in the cheese refrigerated section and comes in an 8 ounce tub. Also, you can make it at home by cooking buttermilk in a low oven overnight and then straining the resulting solids with a cheese cloth. It's delicious as a topping for potatoes with chives or even as a spread on toast with jam or apple butter.

In this recipe, I've used it to make the light Italian dessert called Panna Cotta, which is a cooked cream thickened with gelatin. Unflavored gelatin comes in a dry powder and is available in the traditional variety (which is a meat product), but also kosher and vegetarian varieties, as well. Instead of heavy cream, I used low-fat milk, quark and pureed peaches for the creaminess that is the hallmark of this dessert. Any pureed fruit will do. I just happened to have some delicious, local white peaches on hand, but this would be equally good with nectarines, yellow peaches (even no-sugar added canned), strawberries, ripe pears or plums. Just peel, seed and give them a whirl in your food processor or blender to create the puree. (Wash but do not peel strawberries.) Another benefit of this simple dessert is that its an excellent source of calcium containing 155 mg per serving! It can be made ahead for dinner guests or will keep for 2-3 days in the refrigerator to provide a wholesome snack to grab when you need a lift in the afternoon.

White Peach Panna Cotta
(Makes 4 servings)

¼ cup cold water
1 envelope unflavored, dry gelatin powder
1 cup 1% low-fat milk
½ cup Splenda, granular (plus more, if needed)
1½ cups peach puree (about 4 medium peaches)
8 oz. quark
¼ teaspoon ground cardamom

1. Sprinkle powdered gelatin over the cold water and allow to sit for 5-10 minutes until water is absorbed and granules have softened. Meanwhile, bring the milk to a simmer over medium heat. Add gelatin and whisk until granules are dissolved, about 4 minutes. If mixture begins to boil, remove from heat and continue whisking.

2. Add Splenda, fruit puree, quark and cardamom. Whisk to combine. Taste to determine sweetness. If more sweetness is desired, add 1 tablespoon of Splenda at a time and whisk until desired sweetness has been reached.

3. Pour ¾ cup of the mixture into each dessert dish and place in the refrigerator until chilled and set, at least 3 hours. (For convenience when entertaining, this dessert can be made the day ahead.) Optional: Garnish with two thin slices of peach and a dollop of whipped cream, if desired.

Nutritional Information per serving (not including garnish): 162.7 calories, 18 g carbohydrate, 6.7 g total fat, 2.6 g saturated fat, 113.7 mg sodium, 1.4 g fiber, 9.3 g protein.

Original recipe by Kathy Sheehan, copyright 2010

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