Cooking columnist Sybil Pratt wasn't kidding when she said Suzanne Goin's gorgeous The A.O.C. Cookbook "is serious, challenging cooking, not dumbed-down, not simplified." But for the courageous cook, these recipes are worth it.

Grilled fig leaf panna cotta with figs and melon sorbet

Fig Leaf Panna Cotta

  • 1/4- ounce package (2 1/2 teaspoons) Knox powdered gelatin

  • 5 or 6 fresh fig leaves, washed and dried

  • 2 cups heavy cream

  • 1 cup whole milk

  • 1/2  cup sugar

  • Vegetable oil, for molds

  • 2 tablespoons crème fraîche or yogurt

  • 1 recipe Walnut Pain de Gênes (recipe follows)

  • 1 recipe Walnut Lace Cookies (recipe follows)

  • 9 ripe figs

  • 1/2 ripe cavaillon, honeydew, or other melon

  • 1 recipe Melon Sorbet (recipe follows)

Place 1/4 cup cold water in a large bowl, sprinkle the gelatin over it, and gently swirl the bowl to combine. Using tongs, gently grill 2 or 3 fig leaves for about 2 minutes, rotating frequently and being careful not to burn them. Or, alternatively, fan each leaf over a gas stove, without directly touching the flame, until the leaf begins to smell toasted. It is important that the leaves get toasted and have slightly golden- brown spots and edges but are not burned.

Combine the cream, milk, and fig leaves in a medium saucepan, and bring to a boil over high heat. Turn off the heat, cover, and let sit for 30 minutes, allowing the fig leaves to steep in the hot liquid. Strain the leaves from cream mixture, discard them, and return the liquid to the saucepan. Heat this cream mixture over medium heat to a scald, add the sugar, and stir until it dissolves. Slowly whisk the cream mixture into the bloomed gelatin until completely incorporated. Chill the cream mixture over an ice bath, stirring occasionally, until it’s at room temperature or slightly cool.

Prepare six 3-inch ring molds (or individual ramekins) by lightly brushing vegetable oil on the inside surfaces. Pour a small amount of the cream mixture into a bowl, and whisk in the crème fraîche or yogurt. Then whisk that thickened cream–crème-fraîche mixture back into the cream. (Tempering the cream this way creates a very smooth and silky panna cotta.)  Pour the panna- cotta cream into the prepared molds, and chill in the refrigerator for 2 to 3 hours, until set. When ready to serve, cut the remaining three fig leaves in half and place them on each of six dessert plates. Cut six 3-inch circles of walnut pain de Gênes and place one in the middle of each fig leaf. Center one walnut lace cookie atop each cake. aoccookbookCarefully unmold the panna cottas on top of each cake- cookie stack. (To unmold, gently press your finger down on the panna cotta close to the edge, pulling lightly inward, to the center, and then moving your finger along the perimeter of the panna cotta. When f ipped upside down, it should pop right out.) Trim the stems of the figs, and cut each one in half. Place one fig half on top and one fig half on either side of each panna cotta. Thinly shave the melon with a vegetable peeler; weave the slices around the plates, and place scoops of melon sorbet nestled among the fruit.

Excerpted from The A.O.C. Cookbook by Suzanne Goin. Copyright © 2013 by Suzanne Goin. Excerpted by permission of Knopf, a division of Random House LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher. Read our review of this book.

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