Cauliflower Panna Cotta with Select Caviar

by Olga Schafranek |

I am pretty sure I have mentioned that growing up my parents threw a lot of dinner parties with interesting people. Russian circus performers, Georgian dancers, boisterous family friends - people from all over the world. My mother's meals during these loud and hilarious evenings never disappointed. She is known for her culinary talents and my parents are both revered for their endless hospitality. 

Usually an impressive and thoughtful plated dessert finished the meal. It was my job to help my mom plate them and then I got to bring them out to the guests. This was always my favorite part. As I would carry out the dishes, the warmth and laughter swirling around the room would be chased by a chorus of "oooohs" and "aaaaaahs". Nowadays, if I can, I try to throw in a plated dessert when we host our own guests at our home. The little girl in me still can't get enough of that moment, making each person feel special. 

Many times the dessert was a panna cotta. My mother played around with flavors and accompaniments. It was only recently that I realized panna cotta can be savory too. Somewhere I came across the idea of a cauliflower panna cotta and it felt like a fitting dish to top with some Tsar Nicoulai Caviar. Some of our signature bites top creamy vegetable soups and purees with caviar so the pairing isn't an outrageous concept. My mom also happened to be in town at the time of this experiment so it was a no brainer!

The basic steps to panna cotta are warming and flavoring cream (sometimes with milk), adding some gelatin and letting it cool in a ramekin or mold. Here we are adding in pureed cauliflower with the cream. You can also add a small amount of Parmesan cheese to the warm cauliflower+cream mixture to add a layer of complexity. 

Cauliflower Panna Cotta with Select Caviar (6 servings in 8oz ramekins)
adapted from Lunds & Byerlys 

1 pound cauliflower, stems removed, cut into florets
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1.5 cups cold water
package unflavored gelatin (like Knox)
2 cups heavy cream
1 teaspoon salt
A few teaspoons of grated Parmesan cheese, optional
1 ounce jar of Tsar Nicoulai Select Caviar


1. Place cauliflower florets in a saucepan with butter and water. Simmer 20-30 minutes. Add cream and cook an additional 20-30 minutes or until cauliflower has softened.

2. Puree cauliflower and some of the cooking liquid in a food processor until smooth. Strain the puree. 

2. Sprinkle gelatin over 1 tablespoon of cold water and let soften 2 minutes. Warm half of puree in same saucepan and add the gelatin. Stir 2 minutes. Add remaining puree and combine. If using, add Parmesan cheese. Season with salt to taste. 

3. Divide among 6 (8-ounce) ramekins. Refrigerate 6 hours or overnight.

4. To unmold, run the tip of a knife around the circumference of the panna cotta and place ramekin in a shallow pan of hot water 20-30 seconds. Unmold onto serving plate. Alternatively, you can leave it in the ramekin. 

NOTE: I also played around with different dishes to serve the panna cotta (without unmolding). One was a pretty tea cup. I also tried small shot glasses and yogurt jars which end up more like hors d'oeuvres. 

5. Top with about 1 teaspoon of caviar depending on your panna cotta shape and size. 

Na Zdarovye!