Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Cardamom Panna Cotta

I have only recently come to realize how completely in love with cardamom I am. If you're not already intimately familiar with this sweet, permeating, Indian spice, it may sound intimidating, but a small dash of this amazing powder will put your cinnamon to shame.

I still remember my first encounter with cardamom during a spectacular Restaurant Week lunch at Rasika: the meal closed with a tiny gulab jamen--sort of like an Indian donut soaked in honey and spiked with--you guessed it--cardamom. New to the whole Indian spice game, I walked away from the meal determined to discover what had made the dish so distinctive. Cardamom is a member of the ginger family and comes in black and green varieties. And don't worry if you only have cardamom pods on hand, you can grind or crush them yourself, with 10 pods equalling about 1 1/2 teaspoons of ground cardamom--just remember to strain out the pods after infusing into whatever dish you're making.

Ever since my Rasika experience (an absolute MUST try for Washingtonians also for their one-of-a-kind palak chaat if not for their exquisite use of cardamom), I've been on the lookout for cardamom-centered dishes to put my newly acquired jar to good use (I've said it a million times people--Spices. World Market. $2.99. Do it.) I've also been on a panna cotta kick lately (conveniently, so it seems, are most DC restaurants) so after some searching I sort of fused Alice Medrich and David Lebovitz's recipes for panna cotta for this delicious cardamom version. Also feel free to add orange or rose essence or top with chopped pistachios.

Cardamom Panna Cotta
3 1/2 cups heavy cream
1/3 cup sugar
pinch of salt
1 tsp ground cardamom or 5 cardamom pods
1 cup whole milk
2 1/2 tsp unflavored gelatin

1. In a small saucepan, heat the cream, sugar and salt until steaming, stirring from time to time. Remove pan from the heat and add cardamom. Cover and allow to steep for 25 minutes (or less if using ground cardamom).

2. Meanwhile, pour the milk into a small bowl and sprinkle with gelatin. Set aside, without stirring, for 5-10 minutes to allow the gelatin to soften.

3. Add the milk and gelatin mixture to the cream and reheat to steaming, stirring well to dissolve the gelatin. If using cardamom pods, strain the mixture and discard the pods.

4. Pour the panna cotta into custard cups or serving dishes. Refrigerate for 4-12 hours, unmold and serve topped with ground cinnamon, orange zest or chopped pistachios, if desired.


  1. LOVE LOVE LOVE cardamom. Usually make cardamom creme brulee... this looks good though, I'll have to try it. Perfect after Indian dinner or something.

  2. Yes, I am intimidated by cardamom! But going to take your advice and try it. Will get back to you...