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Books for Cooks: Alison Roman says you can impress your friends without too much trouble

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Panna cotta

Panna cotta

Although she’s a food columnist for The New York Times and Bon Appetit magazine as well as a successful cookbook author, Alison Roman at home prefers relaxed and casual cooking to more stressful, complex entertaining.

Nothing Fancy

Nothing Fancy

“This is not about living an aspirational life,” she writes. “It’s about living an attainable one.”

In "Nothing Fancy: Unfussy Food for Having People Over," she shares creative recipes that are rarely longer than one page. The dessert that follows comes off as sophisticated, yet it’s a simple preparation with a do-ahead component. (Clarkson Potter, $32.50)

Salted Honey Panna Cotta with Crushed Raspberries


1 (¼-ounce) envelope unflavored gelatin powder

¼ cup water

3 cups heavy cream, divided

½ cup plus 2 tablespoons local honey, plus more for garnish

1 cup buttermilk

1 cup sour cream

½ vanilla bean, split and seeds scraped (optional)

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Pinch of kosher salt

6 ounces fresh raspberries

1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar, or fresh lime or lemon juice


Sprinkle the envelope of gelatin over the water and let sit 2 or 3 minutes to soften and hydrate (so that it doesn’t clump).

Add the squishy gelatin to a small pot along with ½ cup cream and ½ cup honey. Heat over low heat, swirling the pot until the gelatin is totally dissolved, making sure not to simmer.

Gently whisk the buttermilk, sour cream, vanilla, if using, remaining 2½ cups cream, and a pinch of salt in a large bowl.

Slowly whisk the warm gelatin mixture into the buttermilk mixture, taking care not to whisk too hard or else it’ll trap air bubbles (you don’t want that). Divide the mixture among 6 to 10 glasses. Chill until the panna cotta is set, at least 1 hour.

Meanwhile, place the raspberries, vinegar, and remaining 2 tablespoons honey in a medium bowl. Using a fork, crush the fruit to release the juices. Serve the panna cotta topped with the crushed raspberry mixture, additional honey, or nothing at all.

Do ahead: The panna cotta mixture can be made 5 days ahead; it keeps well in a plastic container and can be warmed to a liquid, poured into individual serving glasses and chilled before serving.

Note: Panna cotta translates directly to “cooked cream,” but the funny thing is that the cream in a panna cotta should never be cooked, as that would change the flavor of the cream.

Adapted from Nothing Fancy. Copyright 2019 by Alison Roman. Photographs copyright 2019 by Michael Graydon and Nikole Herriott Published by Clarkson Potter, an imprint of Penguin Random House, LLC.

Reach Hanna Raskin at 843-937-5560 and follow her on Twitter @hannaraskin.

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