Weather: 25 degrees, snow
What I’m listening to: the jingle of our puppy’s collar as she plays on the living room rug

When I awoke last week to -23 degree temperatures here on the Kenai Peninsula, I found myself surprised and a little dismayed. National headlines read, “It’s so cold in Alaska, even Alaskans are complaining.” It was about 20 degrees colder than the forecast had projected. One of our vehicles just barely started and I found myself wishing I didn’t have to emerge from my house for the day. But, alas, there was shopping to do and recipe testing to be done and photos to take. As I waited for the car windows to defog, I racked my brain for recipe inspiration. I needed something to awaken my frozen bones and make me feel bright and alive again. Grapefruit. I needed grapefruit.

Panna Cotta
I have always felt that citrus season comes at exactly the right time for Alaska. The blood oranges, tangelos, and grapefruit show up in plentiful number at the market and bring their sunshine with them, bottled up inside. Each year I anticipate that surprising juxtaposition when the dead of winter is bombarded by the juicy flavors of warmer places and that undeniable, sweet acidity. I spotted a recipe for pristine white coconut panna cotta topped with a glimmering grapefruit gelee and knew I had to try it, as it reminded me so distinctly of the wintry Alaska landscape brightened by the warmth of citrus season. The richness of the coconut milk and vanilla bean is cut perfectly by the acidity and slight bitterness that the grapefruit offers. It would make a lovely and impressive dessert for Valentine’s Day, which is just around the corner. Also, this recipe is naturally gluten and dairy free.

Coconut Panna Cotta with Grapefruit Gelée

Coconut panna cotta

Recipe adapted from The Kitchen McCabe.

Yields: 4 servings

  • For the panna cotta:
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons plain gelatin powder
  • 1 (13.5 ounce) can full fat coconut milk
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 vanilla bean, split and scraped
  • For the grapefruit gelee:
  • 1/3 cup freshly squeezed grapefruit juice, divided
  • 1 teaspoon plain gelatin powder
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • For serving:
  • half a grapefruit, segmented, all pith removed
  • mint leaves, for garnish

To make the panna cotta: Add the water to a small bowl. Sprinkle the gelatin powder over the water and set aside to allow the gelatin to bloom.

Meanwhile, in a small saucepan over medium high heat, whisk together the coconut milk, sugar, and vanilla bean. Bring to a simmer. Remove the pan from the heat and whisk in the gelatin until dissolved. Strain the mixture through a fine mesh sieve and then pour it evenly into 4 small ramekins, leaving a little room at the top of each ramekin for the gelee. Refrigerate until set, about two hours.

When the panna cotta is almost set, make the gelee: to a small bowl add 2 tablespoons of the grapefruit juice. Sprinkle the 1 teaspoon of gelatin powder over top of the juice and set aside to allow the gelatin to bloom. Add the remaining grapefruit juice to a small saucepan over medium heat. Whisk in 1 tablespoon sugar. Cook until the sugar is dissolved and the mixture comes to a simmer. Remove the pan from the heat and whisk in the gelatin until dissolved. Allow the gelee to cool at room temperature about 10 minutes. Gently and evenly pour the gelee over top of the four panna cottas. Return the ramekins to the refrigerator to set, about 30-60 minutes.

To serve: place grapefruit segments and mint leaves on top of each panna cotta. Serve chilled.

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