Most every 4th of July (Independence Day for the US) of my childhood was spent at my family's lake cabin. Sometimes we were on our own, just my parents, sisters, grandparents and me. Sometimes friends joined us.
The morning was spent getting up early and decorating our boat (as well as ourselves) with patriotic red-white-and-blue decorations before participating in the lake-wide boat parade where all the other decked out boats would lazily motor around our smallish lake. Our portion of the beach would be filled with many smaller American flags we stuck into the sand.
The food choices for the day would vary, but there was always a giant spread with many. Sometimes burgers, sometimes fish & even for several years, before the oven in the beloved vintage stove quite working, roasted a turkey with all the trimmings.
Once we kids were old enough to stay up, sparklers and fireworks became an important part of the evening. We would douce ourselves in bug spray & cover up as much skin as possible to ward off the mosquitos. When the sparklers were all used, we would move on to the smaller fireworks & then to a few bigger ones. My grandma would sit on the screened-in porch (blissfully mosquito free) and take notes on which particular fireworks we liked the best, so that we would know which ones to buy the following year.
Somewhere throughout the years, I started making a patriotic dessert. I'm fairly sure the first year's dessert was a fruit salad containing un-pitted cherries…. Luckily, my skills (and forethought) improved as the years progressed. Many desserts were inspired by things I'd seen in Martha Stewart Living magazine. One year, the cover of MSL featured the most gorgeous fruit tart, decorated to look like an American flag. While I couldn't make it exactly like the cover image, due to ingredient unavailability, my version became a favorite among family & friends. Pastry crust, chocolate, cream cheese/whipped cream filling, fresh berries…. I make some sort of variation on it nearly every year (you can find my recipe here).
As I was brainstorming something to make this year, I thought a bit sadly about my favorite fruit tart. Pretty much the only component of that tart I'm able to eat this year is the berries…. Nothing against berries, I just eat them most every day & thus have a hard time seeing them as a special Independence Day treat. Then I thought of panna cotta & how easy it would be to make a panna cotta out of coconut milk & add berries to it, sort of similar to the nectarine buttermilk panna cotta I made last year. While I might be mourning my fruit tarts just a little bit, I'm consoling myself with the realization that this dessert is *much* faster to prepare (and less mess) and it's actually good for me!
Patriotic Panna Cotta / Coconut Panna Cotta with berries
yields approximately 4-6 servings, depending on how big your vessels are
1 can (13.5 oz) Organic Coconut Milk (full fat)
1 Tbl (7g) grass-fed gelatin (like this one)
1 Tbl / 31g Organic Honey (local, if you can find it)
1/2 tsp Vanilla Bean Paste (optional for AIP)
around 1.5 c / 200g mixed organic berries (I used blueberries, strawberries & raspberries)
- Place half of the coconut milk (roughly 6.57 oz) into a small sauce pan. Sprinkle the gelatin over the coconut milk & mix gently--I usually use my fingers & break up any clumps that I can. Set aside & allow the gelatin to bloom for 10 minutes.
- Heat the sauce pan over medium heat & whisk constantly until all the gelatin just melts. Remove from the heat and immediately add the honey & vanilla bean paste. Add the remaining coconut milk. Set aside to cool until it is just warm to the touch.
- Meanwhile, prepare your vessels & berries. Place the vessels onto a pan (for easy transport). Fill each cup approximately 1/3 to 1/2 full of berries (either whole berries or cut).
- Give the coconut mixture a stir & then portion equally into the berry-filled vessels.
- Refrigerate at least 2 hours before serving. The panna cotta may be made a day or two in advance, just cover the dishes with plastic wrap & store in the refrigerator until ready to eat.
- Right now I'm trying to incorporate lots of gelatin into my life (it's full of protein, can help heal your gut, and is good for hair/nails/skin, just to name a few benefits), so I've made this panna cotta a bit more firm than usual. If you like, reduce the gelatin by half to produce a softer "custard."
- This recipe could be easily doubled or tripled for a crowd.
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