• Non-stick cooking spray
  • 1/2 cup warm water
  • 2 envelopes gelatin
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 2 cups half and half or buttermilk
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons pure almond extract
  • 2 teaspoons lavender buds
  • 1 pound fresh cherries, pitted
  • 4 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • Zest of one orange
  • 2 tablespoons orange juice
  • 1 teaspoon lavender buds
  • 1/2 cup slivered almonds, toasted

Welcome to week four of the season-long garden party Summer Fest 2011. Food Network has welcomed food and garden bloggers to feature garden-to-table recipes and tips this summer. I have been so very excited to have my recipes featured on the Food Network blog and have been in such great company. Have you all enjoyed looking at everyone’s recipes? I hope you have been inspired and have tried many of the wonderful recipes and techniques the bloggers have shared. So far eggplant, peaches and cucumbers have joined the party and we are about to welcome our newest guest – say hello to the beautiful cherry!

I enjoyed a nice lazy Saturday afternoon experimenting with cherries and cream. What do cherries, cream and lavender have in common? It would have to be the most perfect dessert! Cherries roasted with orange and lavender caramelized to perfection are the perfect accompaniment to Panna Cotta. I wish you could have smelled the aromas that emanated from my kitchen while the cherries were roasting. Well, actually you can enjoy the aromas when you make this recipe with your family and friends!

Unlike custard, Panna Cotta does not include the addition of eggs. A recipe traditionally made in Italy, many suspect that it originated in the beautiful mountainous areas of the country.

As I thought about the flavors for my dessert, I looked at the beautiful tube of lavender in my Dean and Deluca Spice Rack. I wondered if that would go well with almond and cherries? The second the lavender buds and almond extract hit the warm cream mixture I KNEW this was going to be a remarkable dessert! For texture, I toasted slivered almonds which added a beautiful touch and a nice crunch.

I have made Creme Brulee and Spanish Flans several times, but never their cousin Panna Cotta or Cooked Cream. Panna Cotta is a very simple, elegant and luscious dessert and the preparation couldn’t be simpler! Heavy cream, half and half and sugar simmer away to create the most flavorful creamiest pudding. The simmered cream welcomes flavors like vanilla or almond extracts, zest or fruit juices and even certain teas.

Almond and cherries are the perfect marriage. When using lavender for consumption be sure not to get lavender, or any edible flower, from florists, nurseries, or garden centers because they are usually treated with pesticides not labeled for food crops. Always purchase culinary grade lavender.

There are several types of cherries, like Bing, which I used in this roasted cherry recipe, Black Stone Cherry, Chelan, Choke Cherry, Lapins, Maraschino, Morello, Napoleon, North Star, Rainier, Spanish Cherry, Sweetheart and Tieton.

Spray 6 to 8 ramekins with non-stick cooking spray and set aside. (Note: Some people choose to not invert the Panna Cotta, but to rather serve it in coffee cups, wine, martini or brandy glasses, small bowls or a even a larger bowl with a pattern).

Pour water into a medium-sized bowl and sprinkle gelatin over. It takes about 5 minutes for the gelatin to thicken so set aside while you work on your cream mixture.

In a heavy bottomed saucepan, heat your heavy cream, half and half, sugar, almond extract and lavender buds over medium heat. Stir a few minutes just until the sugar dissolves. Pour the mixture over the gelatin and stir until the gelatin dissolves completely.

Pour into your greased ramekins and refrigerate for at least four hours or until the mixture has set up.

While your Panna Cotta is setting up, prepare your cherries and almonds.

Place cherries in a baking dish. Sprinkle sugar, cinnamon, orange zest, juice and lavender buds on top. Give a quick stir to combine. Place in the oven and roast until the cherries start to release their lovely juices and the sugar melts and begins to caramelize. This will take about 20 minutes. Be sure to watch the cherries very carefully because the sugar may start to burn. (Tip: The roasted cherries can be refrigerated and then heated up on the stove top when ready to serve.)

Toast your almonds in a dry pan over medium heat, stirring constantly, until they brown a little bit. Set aside.

When ready to serve, run a knife around the edges of your Panna Cotta, invert onto your serving plate and give it a little shake. Top with Roasted Cherries and Toasted Almonds, grab a spoon and enjoy!

Perhaps you’d like to see more recipes featuring cherries:

These Cherry Chocolate Paninis were delicious!

Yesterday I picked up these gorgeous Rainier cherries…

…you can see what the boys and I did with these beauties in Crepes with Sauteed Rainier Cherries and Port Wine Whipping Cream!

A few extra recipes:

Stuffed French Toast
Outrageous Oatmeal Cookies
White Chocolate Scones with Dried Fruit, Macadamia Nuts and a Citrus Glaze
Festive Cookie Jars…good anytime of the year

…and of course you must check out the wonderfully creative recipes the other Summer Fest bloggers came up with. Opening the Food Network email with the list of the bloggers creations is like Christmas morning!

What’s Gaby Cooking: Cherry Chocolate Truffle Ice Cream
Big Girls Small Kitchen: Cherry Cornmeal Cake
Daydreamer Desserts: Cherry Crumble Cake
Ingredient Challenge Monday: Black Forest Ice Cream Done Two Ways
Spices and Aroma: Dilkush with Cherries
And Love It Too: Cherry-Pecan Chicken Salad
FN Dish: The Ultimate Cherry Pie
Daily*Dishin: Simple French Cherry Clafouti
Glory Foods: Collard Greens and Cherry Reduction
Chez Us: Gluten-Free Cherry Clafoutis
Food for 7 Stages of Life: South Indian Hot and Sour Soup
Virtually Homemade: Dark Chocolate Cherry Kuchen
In Jennie’s Kitchen: Cherry Conserves
The Sensitive Epicure: Gluten-Free Cherry Almond Clafouti
Cooking Channel: Very Cherry Sangria
Napa Farmhouse 1885: Cherry Balsamic Vinegar
Zaika Zabardast: Balsamic Cherry and Peach Crisp
Mooshu Jenne: Rainier Cherry Panna Cotta
Food2: A Very Cherry Recipe Round-Up
Virtually Vegan Mamma: Fresh Cherry and Almond Scones
CIA Dropout: Italian Cherry Cake
Sweet Life Bake: Honey-Tequila Pickled Cherries
Cooking With Books: Cherry Cooler
Recipe Girl: Cherry Limeade Pound Cake