Last year, we failed miserably at maintaining a thriving rooftop garden. We gave it the good old college try, even attempting to grow everything from seeds. We have some idea as to why our zucchini, squash, and heirloom tomatoes never bore any fruit. Perhaps it was the harsh winds coming from the lake. Or we'd even love to blame the fact that we didn't plant it in the ground. However, we're a little embarrassed to say that our neighbor across the way with whom we shared some of our seedlings ended up with a pretty kickass and abundant rooftop garden. Most likely, though, it was the complete lack of flowers in the vicinity to attract bees for proper pollination.
This year we didn't want to take a chance at another fruitless garden so we picked up plants from a local nursery. Jared picked up 4 different types of tomatoes (black prince, german queen, mr. stripey and cherry) and strawberries. While we've been crossing our fingers and waiting patiently to eat tomatoes from our own garden, Jared came up with this new twist on a caprese salad for dessert.
Basil Panna Cotta over Toasted Brioche RoundTopped with Basil Oil and Basil SeedsA Quenelle of Tomato SorbetA Black Pepper TuileA Brush of Balsamic Reduction and Microgreens
Jared's been on a panna cotta kick since our savory panna cotta post and we are no strangers to mixing basil and cream so it seemed only right that he make a basil panna cotta. We also picked up a packet of of basil seeds from our asian market. We we first saw these seeds in desserts and drinks when we toured Asia two years ago. They look like normal tiny black seeds right out of the package, but after re-hydrating them they puff up into what looks like slimy little tadpoles. It sounds gross, but it adds a fun texture to your dessert. This was by far my favorite portion of the dish.
Basil Panna Cotta
2 cups of heavy whipping cream fresh basil (stem + leaves) 3 tablespoon sugar 1 packet of unflavored gelatin
- in a sauce pan, add the cream and basil and simmer on low for 20 mins. Do not let the cream boil over
- add the sugar and stir until dissolved
- start the gelatin with a tablespoon of cold water, then add it to the cream
- stir well until gelatin has dissolved
- pour into mold and place it in the fridge until ready to use
A Handful of Basil leaves Grape Seed Oil
- in a mortar or food processor, crush or blend the basil leaves, slowly drizzle the oil until well incorporated
- using a fine mesh sieve or cheese cloth, strain the oil into a squeeze bottle
Let's move on to the next portion of this dessert. The more comical part. The quenelle of tomato sorbet. Here's the thing, I rarely see Jared get frustrated in the kitchen. At times... no wait, MOST of the time he's got this confidence in the kitchen that borders on arrogance and I find myself constantly and dramatically rolling my eyes when he tries to go fancy. Ah but this time, Jared suffered a bit from what I'll call "Quenelle Fail". Sure a perfect quenelle shape is something that pastry chefs work a long time to perfect and sure maybe the tomato sorbet ended up being too icy for a proper quenelle. But that night, I gotta say it was a bit refreshing to see Jared falter in the kitchen. Hey, maybe he is human after all. MAYBE.
After his first few failures and a whole lot of heckling from yours truly, I walked away to watch some tv. Minutes turned to what felt like hours and I realized I hadn't seen my husband in quite some time. I meandered back downstairs only to find him STILL working on the quenelle. "I WILL MASTER THIS", he screamed and shook his chilled fists in the air. <Insert massive eye roll> Apparently, if he practiced for too long the sorbet would turn too soft and he'd have to put it back in the freezer to get it back to the right semi-frozen state for quenelle-ing. During the wait, he'd check the internet to watch quenelle technique videos. In the middle of this frenzy, we came across an awesome quenelle video and post by one of our favorite bloggers, Leela of SheSimmers.com featuring Patrick Fahy of Blackbird in Chicago (at the time of the post).
Frustrated yet inspired all at the same time, Jared continued to practice over the weekend. This resulted in many a quenelled vanilla ice creams and mango sorbets. A few days later and to my dismay, he finally felt he had improved enough to make this dish presentable for this post.
Here we present to you his quenelle-ish tomato sorbet!
So, I'm not going to lie, Jared's tomato sorbet did not hold a candle to the tomato sorbet we had at Eric Ripert's Le Bernardin. I thought it tasted a little like frozen V8. But hey, let's give him a A+ for concept and effort! If you try this yourself, I'd add a lot more sugar to taste.
2.5 lbs of ripe tomatoes 3 tablespoon of sugar juice from 1/2 lemon
- score an X on the skin of the tomato
- blanch in hot boiling water for 10 seconds
- put the tomatoes in an ice bath
- remove the skin and seeds
- rough chop the tomato into pieces
- place in a pan and cook for 15-20 mins on medium heat to remove most of the water and concentrate the flavor
- place the cooked tomatoes in a blender. Add enough water to get the blender going.
- add the sugar and lemon juice and blend until smooth.
- pass the puree through a sieve
- follow the directions on your ice cream maker to make the sorbet
For a slightly savory addition, Jared made a very delicate black pepper tuile, a twist from the French Laundry tuile recipe. This was my second favorite part of the dish after the basil panna cotta.
Black Pepper Tuile
4 table spoon butter (softened) egg white from 1 egg 1/4 cup of all purpose flour 1 pinch of salt 1 tablespoon sugar fresh cracked black pepper
- mix flour, sugar and salt in a mixing bowl
- in another bowl, whip butter until smooth
- beat the egg white into the dry ingredients
- mix the butter a 1/3 at a time into the batter
- mix well and spread batter onto a sheet pan lined with silpat to your shape of choice
- sprinkle with fresh ground black pepper
- bake at 325°F until golden brown and set aside to cool
Tomato Sorbet and Basil Panna Cotta
Basil panna cotta Basil oil Re-hydrated basil seeds Toasted Brioche round Tomato sorbet Balsamic vinegar Microgreens Black pepper tuile Recipe
- reduce the balsamic vinegar in a sauce pot until slightly thickened
- paint the plate or bowl with the balsamic reduction
- place microgreens and basil seed on top of the painted vinegar
- set the brioche on the bowl and place the panna cotta on top
- dress the top of the panna cotta with basil oil, basil seed and fresh basil leaves
- once the sorbet is at scooping consistency, carefully quenelle the sorbet and place it next to the panna cotta
- place the tuile next to the panna cotta and serve