Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Cape Gooseberries And A Spring Panzanella

Sometimes a simple aqua-colored paper box filled with golden gooseberries is enough to brighten my day.

"Oh I haven't seen these since my summer in Portugal!" I gushed as soon as I saw them. There they were. Cape gooseberries wrapped in their wrinkled, papery, brown-colored shell. "I have no idea what I will do with them, but I need them" I told Jody. I am still amazed of all the wonderful things she grows.

When I arrived home, the kids were intrigued by the little fruits. "Can I try one amatxu?" Jon asked. I loved his curiosity, although I had a feeling he wasn't going to be very keen on them. He squinted and shook his head. "I think I am going to cook them in a little bit of sugar" I told him. "That would be better, I think" he replied.

Cape gooseberries, also know as physalis, are closely related to tomatillos and other plants such as tomatoes, eggplants, and potatoes. It is full of tiny seeds and when ripe, it is very bright yellow and very sweet. Although it is often times used as a garnish for desserts, I think this doesn't really do it much justice. It makes great pies and jams and I have also seen many cakes recipes with them.

I decided to poach the gooseberries in a light sugar syrup as some of them were still not fully ripe. I made honey and yogurt panna cotta and served the poached gooseberries on top.

It was Easter weekend after all and I wanted something very Spring-like. Something with lots of greens and color.

Along with some of our neighbors, we put together a small egg-hunt for the kids. Lots of tattoos, stickers, mighty beans, and an occasional tootsie roll that Miren tried to hide in her shoe.

I had to confiscate a few.

I had some leftover gluten-free hearty bread that I rubbed with garlic and toasted with some olive oil. Perfect croutons for a spring panzanella salad. Shredded zucchini that almost looks like pasta, blanched asparagus tips, shaved fennel, garlicky croutons, and watercress made a perfect lunch.

Spring Panzanella Salad

Serves 3

3 slices hearty seed bread (I made my own)
1 clove garlic, crushed
1/4 plus 2 tbs cup olive oil, divided
1/2 cup green asparagus tips
1/2 fennel bulb, thinly slices
1 zucchini, grated into long strands
1 cup watercress
1 small spring onion, thinly sliced
1 Tbs lemon juice
Salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 325F.

Rub the sliced of bread with the raw garlic. Dice the bread into 1/2 inch cubes. Toss them with 2 Tbs olive oil and bake them for 10 minutes until golden and crunchy.

Blanch the asparagus tips in salted boiling water for 1 minute. Drain and shock them in ice water to stop the cooking process. Drain them.

Toss the bread croutons, asparagus, fennel, zucchini, watercress, and spring onion in a large bowl. Add the lemon juice, rest of olive oil, salt, and pepper. Toss the salad and let it stand at room temperature for 10 minutes for all the flavors to macerate. Serve immediately.

Yogurt and Honey Panna Cotta

2 cups (500 ml) heavy cream
1/2 cup (100 grams) natural cane sugar
1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise and scraped
3 sheets gelatin
1 cup (250 ml) full fat Greek-style yogurt
1/4 cup good-quality honey (I used acacia honey)

In a small saucepan, heat the heavy cream, sugar and vanilla bean until it comes to a simmer. Remove from heat.

In the meantime, soak the gelatin in ice water for 5 minutes. Squeeze out excess water and add the gelatin to the hot cream. Whisk to dissolve. Pour this into a clean bowl and let it cool for 5 minutes. Add the yogurt and whisk well.

Spoon about 1 Tbs of honey into each glass jar. Pour the panna cotta on top and chill in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours or until completely set.

Poached Gooseberries

1 cup (250 ml) water
1/2 cup (100 grams) natural cane sugar
Peel of half lemon
2 sprigs lemon thyme
1 cup cape gooseberries, outter shell removed

In a small saucepan, heat the water, sugar, lemon peel, and lemon thyme together over medium heat until sugar dissolves. Add the gooseberries and cook for 2 minutes or until they start to lightly pop. Spoon them out of the syrup and cool them slightly.

Serve them on top of the panna cotta.

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