Posts tagged ‘no bake’

Black Pepper Panna Cotta & Red Wine Strawberries

Black Pepper Panna Cotta (main)

I bought a carton of strawberries.

I did it against my better judgment—the berries were suspiciously big and still a little out of season, not to mention overpriced. They were so red I couldn’t help but feel suspicious.

But I bought them anyway because I wanted to make panna cotta, and I thought berries would make the plate prettier. Plus, I’d found a half-cup of cheap cabernet in the fridge, forgotten by the apartment’s previous tenants, and I figured that would be enough to make mediocre berries taste good.

I went home and got to work, chilling the panna cottas and reducing the wine to a slow-bubbling glaze. After all that, I popped open the box of strawberries. I was surprised—they actually looked really good. Well, I thought, I’m glad they’ll photograph nice. I scooped up a handful, ran them under water, and let them tumble onto a cutting board, which slowly pinkened with juice. Before slicing, I picked up one of the smaller berries, pinched off the green, and popped the whole thing in my mouth.

Wow.

Black Pepper Panna Cotta (strawberry)

Black Pepper Panna Cotta (spoon)

With one bite I was transported home to Seattle, to our front yard, to my mom’s strawberry patch.

She planted the seeds when I was a senior in high school. They’ve grown prolifically since then, the leaves a dense carpet. The berries are tiny, thimble-sized, and redder than roses. They’re profusely floral, like perfume in your palms, so fragrant you taste them before you’ve parted your lips. Each bite melts on your tongue and the sweetness probably causes cavities.

They’re the best strawberries I’ve ever had.

One year, I infused some into a jar of bourbon. Another time, I made shortcakes with thick dollops of real cream. But they’re always best as-is, still warm from the sun, by the bowl-full. My dad likes to dip them in black pepper, a preference I found off-putting until I tried it. You can’t actually taste the pepper—like salt on chocolate, it simply enhances the berry itself.

Once I’d settled on red wine strawberries, I added pepper to the panna cottas, without hesitation.

Black Pepper Panna Cotta (closeup)

The grocery store strawberries weren’t as good as my mom’s. Not even close. But they were outrageously better than I expected. The panna cottas were, too.

I was nervous they would stick to their molds, but each panna cotta wobbled right onto the plate. The texture was perfect—-firm enough to hold a shape, yet soft and creamy as pudding. The edges were smooth as marble. I’d originally imagined the pepper sprinkled throughout, and I was disappointed they had settled down instead. But on second glance, I liked the way it looked—-pure white with black flecks crowning the top, like caviar, gently trickling down.

And the berries. Glossy, sweet, and superbly robust. The color contrast was gorgeous. I didn’t regret stirring them into the red wine reduction, even though I usually like to eat delicious fruit as-is.

I’ll save that simple happiness for the next time I’m home.

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June 21, 2013 at 3:46 pm 15 comments

S’mores Rice Krispies

Smores Rice Krispies 4

I thought I’d write about how grown up I feel interning in New York this summer… but that’s not really true.

More honestly, I’m playing dress up. I hardly recognize myself in the mornings, in an ironed button up and pencil skirt. Then I see the goofy photo on my employee ID—the one where I was about to say, “What?” and my bangs are too long—and I feel like a kid again.

Surprisingly, I’ve never worked full time outside the school year. Even after college began, I’ve spent summers making ice cream and hoping for a tan. While my schedule this semester might be less open, I do love living in New York. For a long time I wanted to go to school here. And though I ultimately ended up in Boston, I always wondered if I might secretly be a New Yorker.

Smores Rice Krispies 1

It takes more than a summer to become one, but I’m slowly getting used to the subway, the pace of the city, the feel of different neighborhoods. I’m learning to walk with purpose, and crossing restaurants off my list. And I’ve got a beautiful apartment I’ll be heartbroken to leave after August.

The kitchen is the first room off the apartment’s long hallway, and the first room I come home to. If you’ve ever lived in this city, it won’t surprise you that it’s the size of a shoe box. It’s narrow and dishwasher-less, with a fold-up table and two chairs an arm’s reach from the fridge. There’s outlet space to plug in either the microwave or electric kettle—only one—and the oven runs so hot you can burn yourself without opening it.

But the cabinets are stocked all the way back with spices, herbs, sugars and extracts, five flavors of instant macaroni and lots of tea. There’s a small window that looks out onto absolutely nothing but lets in a gauzy pool of light. And even though I wasn’t impressed upon first glance, this kitchen has grown on me.

Smores Rice Krispies 3

I didn’t expect to use it much. But when I found myself wanting to bake, I did.

I wanted something quick, inexpensive, and delicious. So I made rice krispies, a no-bake recipe that only took twenty minutes from start to finish. The recipe is as easy as melting butter and marshmallows, stirring it into the krispies, and pressing the whole mess into a pan. For fun, I added chocolate chips and graham crackers, since nothing says summer like s’mores.

Simple as they are, there’s something thoroughly satisfying about these little squares. I’ve always liked rice krispies—gooey, soft, and crunchy all at once, with a sweetness that sticks to the back of your teeth. These ones feel especially nostalgic. The chocolate chips melt a little, thanks to the residual heat of the marshmallows. The shards of graham cracker lend a wholesome crunch. The whole thing sticks stubbornly to your fingers, and it’s great.

Smores Rice Krispies 5

It might be my first summer away from home, living with my first long term boyfriend in my first New York apartment, working 40 hours a week at a company with 30 other interns. But one bite of these rice krispies and I feel like a little kid again, like it might be another summer spent in the sun.

I hope I never get too old to chase that feeling.

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June 13, 2013 at 11:01 pm 43 comments


Elissa Bernstein



I'm Elissa: a 17 (now 21) year old baker in Seattle Boston juggling creative nonfiction workshops, subway maps, and my passions for writing, baking, and photography. Photo above © Michelle Moore

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