Every year I buy mint for my garden, and every year the thing grows like crazy and I use almost none of it. I appear to have these romantic notions about sipping Mojitos and Mint Juleps on the patio all summer long, perhaps in a long flowing dress and a large floppy hat, enjoying the warm breeze. But that’s not exactly how summer in the Boston-area goes. It’s more like this: wait impatiently all spring for the warm weather to arrive, have a few nice days of comfortable temperatures in June, and then hide inside from the heat and humidity until September. And let the mint go to seed while you wonder what to do with it and why you buy it every year. Toss it in the compost when the cold weather comes and it dies out, and then conveniently have amnesia come April when you head to the nursery to buy plants for your garden. Pick up some mint while visions of Mojitos and warm summer breezes dance through your head. It’s the cycle of life.
So my mint this year went virtually untouched, except as touches in a few small recipes. I didn’t make a single mojito, nor a single mint julep. And the creepy mint creepers grew in their creepy way out of the pot and all over one side of the patio. I pretty much just ignored the whole thing, gave it some water here and there when I remembered and left it to its own devices. It thrived despite my neglect, or perhaps because of it.
Finally, towards the end of the summer, I got it in my head to make panna cotta again, this time chocolate. But plain chocolate wouldn’t do, it had to have some interesting flavour twist. And somewhere along the way, I got a guilty conscience about all the mint that was sitting untouched all summer long. It just looked sad. Lonely. Like it wanted to be used in a creative low carb, gluten-free dessert. So I decided to take pity on the poor thing, and give it a moment in the limelight by putting it on my blog. I chopped some and steeped it in hot cream to get a lovely minty flavour. Then I mixed the milk and gelatin, added chopped chocolate and melted it in, and let them all hang out in the fridge together to set up into a nice little chocolate mint panna cotta. Now, I’m no expert in vegetable psychology, but I think the mint was happy.
- 1 1/4 cups heavy cream
- 1/3 cup fresh mint chopped
- 1/3 cup granulated Swerve Sweetener or other erythritol
- 1 cup whole milk
- 1 1/2 envelopes unflavored gelatin
- 2 oz 90% cacao chocolate chopped fine (gluten-free if possible)
- In a medium saucepan over medium heat, combine cream with fresh mint and erythritol. Bring to a boil, stirring to dissolve erythritol, then remove from heat.
- Cover with lid and let steep 30 minutes.
- Pour through a fine-mesh sieve into a bowl to remove solids. Press on solids to release as much flavor and liquid as possible. Set aside.
- Lightly grease six (6) 1/2-cup ramekins or custard cups.
- In another medium saucepan, pour 1/2 cup whole milk. Sprinkle gelatin over and let sit 3 minutes.
- Add remaining whole milk and the chopped chocolate and set over medium heat, whisking constantly to melt chocolate. Cook until gelatin dissolves and steam rises from the surface, but make sure not to boil.
- Remove from heat and stir in the cream mixture.
- Divide mixture between prepared ramekins, cover with plastic wrap and chill at least 4 hours, until set.
- Serve in the cups or unmold onto plates.
- To unmold, sit the bottom of each ramekin in hot water for about 60 seconds. Run a sharp knife around the inside of each ramekin to loosen and flip out onto the plate. I found it took a little jiggling to get the panna cotta to come free.