I made this little dessert as an ode to moms, but specifically my mom. I wanted it to have a touch of rose, for the bountiful gardens she tends. It had to be multi-layered, for the way she has constantly re-invented herself through the years, from a young wife supporting her husband through graduate school, to a stay-at-home mom, a working mom, a successful business owner, a teacher, and a community leader. It would need a variety of toppings, for she’s worn many hats throughout motherhood, as maker of our home, nurturer, provider and role model. It had to be something solid but with a rounded softness and lots of give, for the many ways my sisters and I have depended on her and the countless ways she is giving to everyone around her. I wanted this little dessert to be lots of things to capture the essence of my mom, but after all this, I think it’s easier for me to just tell you about her.
My mom has a gift with small creatures, whether they’re the blooming flowers in her gardens or the troubled kids she works with through her church, the many strays she has adopted or one of her granddaughters bundled in her arms. In her care, through her calming voice and artful flair, they thrive. One of my most revelatory moments with my mom was on a long-distance phone call with her just hours after I became a mother myself. Exhausted from two days of labor, sore from surgery, homesick in a foreign country and frightened for my fragile, premature baby in the NICU one floor above me in the hospital, I cried to my mom though my mixture of emotions. I think the gist of it was that I felt overwhelmed and unprepared and unsure what to do for my baby. She listened, then told me, “Leave all of that behind when you’re with her. Feel love and only love. She’ll feel that too; it’s what she needs from you. Love and only love.” Her words rang true, it’s what I tried to do, and still do, with my daughter in times of need. I stop, leave all else behind, and with every cell of my being, I try to exude pure love.
There was a time when I was a kid, the summer before second grade, I think, when I went to a summer day camp and had to take a bus there and back every day. My mom had enlisted the help of a big third-grader to make sure I got off at the right bus stop at a little bank in our town, where my mom would be waiting in the afternoons to drive us home. One day, I’m not sure what happened, but I must have been spacing out and I completely missed my stop. I have a vague recollection of seeing my third-grader friend descending the bus stairs and hearing the swoosh of the doors closing and catching a glimpse of the bank clock as the one city block I knew flashed by me. Instead of speaking up or getting up, I sank lower in my seat as one by one the other kids exited and the bus got emptier. Oh, I was so shy! As we roared through city after city, a feeling of doom settled in me; I had visions of being stuck in a cold, dark, empty bus for the rest of my days. But after the bus pulled into the enormous terminal and the bus driver stepped off, I heard my mom’s voice. I flew down the aisle and out the door, past the bewildered driver and into my mom’s arms. I now wonder what she must have been feeling the whole frantic ride there as she tailed the bus and tried to flag him down – for she had figured out exactly what had happened – but in that moment there were no questions, no lectures, not a hint of exasperation, not even a good-natured teasing, just love.
There’s so much I could tell you about my mom, but I think these two memories capture what I’m getting at here, the most important thing: Love and only love. I felt it, Mom, and it was just what I needed.
Happy Mother’s Day Weekend!
Rose, Berry & Pomegranate Panna Cotta
This dessert has three layers: a gelée of pomegranate syrup + fresh raspberries + rosewater, then a simple strawberry yogurt gelée beneath it; the base is a classic creamy and soft panna cotta. It’s all topped with fresh berries and mint sprigs.
Pomegranate, Raspberry & Rose Gelée:
- 5 fresh raspberries
- 2 Tbs. pomegranate syrup
- 1 Tbs. sparkling water
- 2-3 drops rosewater
- 1 tsp. cornstarch
Strawberry Yogurt Gelée
- 1/4 cup good-quality natural strawberry yogurt
- 1/2 tsp. cornstarch
- 1/4 cup milk
- 2 g. (.07 oz.) gelatin powder
- 1/4 cup cream
- 1 Tbs. granulated sugar
- 1 tsp. light brown muscovado sugar
- Lightly butter or grease two glasses or ramekins (I used coconut oil on two glasses). Make the pomegranate, raspberry & rose gelée first: In a small saucepan, macerate the raspberries until they are broken into small pieces. Mix in the pomegranate syrup, water and rosewater and heat slowly over low heat. Just as it comes to a boil, lift the pan off the heat with one hand and with the other add the cornstarch and stir rapidly. As it becomes incorporated and smooth, return to heat and continue stirring vigorously as it thickens (do not let it burn or overboil). Remove from heat, let cool, then pour into the glasses, dividing evenly between the two. Let the glasses chill for at least half an hour.
- Make the middle layer of strawberry yogurt gelée. Use the same (cleaned) saucepan and the same technique, warming the yogurt and adding the constarch and stirring vigorously as it thickens. Once cooled, pour it into the glasses, dividing evenly and return to the fridge to chill for at least a half hour more.
- Make the panna cotta layer: First pour the gelatin powder into the milk in the (clean and cooled) saucepan and let sit until the granules have swelled, about 3 minutes. Then add the cream and sugar and stir while you heat it up and bring it close to a simmer. Stir continuously but watch the heat to make sure it doesn’t come to a boil. When the sugar & gelatin have dissolved and it thickens slightly, remove from heat and let cool. Pour this last layer into the glasses, dividing evenly, and return to the fridge to chill for 3 hours (or overnight).
- When ready to serve, dip the glasses into a bowl of warm water and hold them there for about 1 minute. Run a knife around the edges if necessary to break the suction, tip gently over serving plates, and let them plop out. Or, serve as is, in their glasses/ramekins. Garnish with fresh berries and mint.