I’ve recently noticed that the so-called traditional desserts are becoming less popular even among the die-hard dessert lovers who not so long ago, without thinking twice, would have reached for a rich, egg and whipped cream loaded ice cream or pie. A few weeks ago I invited a few friends over and made a cake that looked and tasted delicious but, to my disappointment, some of them didn’t even touch it because it contained eggs, butter and cream. My lesson from that get-together is from now on to prepare only vegan and gluten free options that will satisfy any palate.
When I started experimenting with vegan, plant-based sweets I realized that ingredients such as nuts, coconut milk and cream, shredded coconut and almond meal are perfect for them. Such desserts become even healthier and more appetizing when served with seasonal fresh fruits, hazelnut crisp or homemade preserves.
This refreshing, easy to make and pretty looking vegan version of a traditional Italian dessert is gluten free and doesn’t contain any artificial ingredients. The top layer made with mango blended with lemon juice perfectly complements light sweetness of the panna cotta.
Mangoes are not only juicy and sweet but also very healthy and highly recommended by Ayurveda. They are rich in cancer preventing antioxidants, such as beta carotene and vitamin C, low in calories and high in fiber and potassium. If you are new to mangoes; they are ready to eat when soft to touch and yield to gentle pressure. Usually, in supermarkets they are still green, but you can ripen them at room temperature. Once ripe, store them in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.
Mango season is fast approaching and soon the fruit will be piling up in produce sections of many grocery stores. I usually buy them at ethnic markets, where they are juiciest, sweetest and least expensive. So, let’s enjoy this stunning fruit not only in desserts, but also in salads and smoothies!
Note: Coconut milk and cream are high in saturated fat so their excessive consumption is not recommended.
For the base:
- 3.5 oz. dry dates, pitted and finely chopped
- 1.5 oz. shredded coconut
- 1 oz. almond meal
- 1 tsp. agave nectar
Place all ingredients in a blender and mix for 30 seconds, until smooth and uniform. You can also use a grinder to soften and blend the dates and then mix them with other ingredients in a medium bowl.
When smooth and well combined, divide the mixture into 4 parts and place the 1/4 into each round pastry ring to hold the shape. Spread the mixture evenly and push it hard with a pusher. Set aside.
Note: I used pastry rings with pushers bought on Amazon for about $10.00 for the set of 6. They are very convenient when you want to make a simple but sophisticated looking dessert. The same rings can be used for making savory dishes with avocado and other veggies.
For the panna cotta:
- 11/2 cup coconut milk
- 3/4 coconut cream
- 1 tbsp cornstarch
- 1flat tsp agar agar powder
- 1 tsp vanilla
- pinch of salt
- 1 ripe mango, skin and pit removed, cut up in small pieces
- juice of 1/2 lemon
- 1/4 cup mixed berries (optional)
Place all ingredients in a medium saucepan and gradually bring to a boil stirring constantly. When the mixture reaches the boiling point and begins thickening, reduce the heat to low and keep cooking for 1 more minute stirring. Remove from the heat and set aside. Let cool completely. When cool, place 1/4 of the mixture into the pastry rings over the date base. Refrigerate for 4 hours.
Remove the panna cottas from the fridge. Using a knife, separate the panna cottas from the rings and very gently remove them from the rings.
Cut up the flesh of one mango, place it in a blender along with lemon juice. Blend until smooth.
Top each panna cotta with blended mango, spreading it evenly with an offset spatula or a wide knife and transfer to a serving plate. You can sprinkle the remaining small pieces of chopped mango on top of each and decorate them with berries or other seasonal fruit. Enjoy!
Panna cottas can be stored in the fridge for 2-3 days.