During a conversation with my mother one day, it came up that she used to love to eat vanilla ice cream inside a half of a cantaloupe, so she could scoop a little of the melon with a bit of ice cream. I thought of that while looking at melons int he grocery store the other day, so decided to play with the vanilla/cantaloupe combination and make a vanilla bean panna cotta.
I first saved the pulp from straining the juice and served the panna cotta over the pulp, but I realized that the panna cotta itself had such a nice cantaloupe flavor that the additional cantloupe actually took away from that and made it seem like you needed the pulp for the flavor, when that was not at all the case. After that, I just served it up with a little sliver of melon for garnish. The only reason I molded them into little tartlets was that I happened to buy the tins that same day and wanted to play with them. :)
2 c heavy cream
1/2 c sugar
1 vanilla bean
1/2 c fresh cantaloupe juice
1 packet plain gelatin
3 T cold water
For the cantaloupe juice, I rough chopped half a cantaloupe, ran it through the food processor, then strained it over a measuring cup. As a side note, I keep having problems with small strainers rusting or corroding. I finally broke down and invested a whopping .49¢ in a re-usable coffee filter. So far so good.
In a small pot, whisk together the cream and sugar, then split open the vanilla bean, and with the back side of a paring knife, or the edge of a spoon, scrape the inside of the bean and add it all to the pot - the seeds AND the pod.
Over medium heat, whisking frequently, bring the cream mixture up to a boil, allowing the sugar to dissolve and the mixture to thicken slightly.
You can pour the entire batch into a bowl or other vessel to scoop out servings, or you can pour it into small shot glasses, etc. I decided to play with the tart tins, so I sprayed each with a bit of cooking spray to make sure I could invert and release them later.
Chill until set, then garnish as desired. Some panna cottas are nice with mint or other herbs, etc., but this one has such a subtle melon flavor, you will not want to overpower it. I love all the little flecks of vanilla bean.