I was fortunate enough to have spent this labor day weekend in a beach house at the coast with some friends. We had a good time relaxing by the water, making s’mores, and doing a little shopping. While we were out we stumbled across this big antiques mall, and happily spent a couple of hours wandering about the stalls, looking at all of the little gorgeous things. While there, I found a few old fashioned, individual, tin jello molds and thought that they would make perfectly charming little molds for some panna cotta, or some other such thing, and so I couldn’t resist purchasing them. And upon returning home, I wasted no time in putting them to good use. I whipped up an easy panna cotta, and poured it into the new molds, and various other containers I had laying about (a tea cup, ramekin, a couple of brioche molds, and a stemless wine glass), to see which would make the prettiest presentation. At the end of the day they all turned out so well that it was silly even trying to choose a favorite. In fact, how fun would it be to make this dessert for your guests and serve each person their own unique little creation? I like quirky little things like that sometimes. I used David Lebovitz’s recipe for perfect panna cotta, adding an extra third of a cup of sugar, and using both a vanilla bean and two teaspoons or so of vanilla extract. It is incredibly easy to make, takes no time whatsoever, can be made days in advance, and can be served on its own or with a variety of different accompaniments. I, for example, had some fresh raspberries laying around and so I macerated them with a little bit of sugar, and a little splash of Grand Marnier, which made a delicious compliment to the silky, very vanilla panna cotta. I also had a hand full of fresh black mission figs left over from the weekend, and so, taking a cue from chef Ann Burell, I sliced them in half and tossed them with a splash of balsamic vinegar and about a tablespoon of sugar and then roasted them in a 350º oven until they were syrupy and caramelized. The sweet, tart, caramelized figs were also quite good with the creamy vanilla “custard”. Whichever way you decide to serve it, panna cotta is always a deliciously decadent little treat. It feels so luxurious and seems so complicated, but really nothing could be simpler to prepare. Which makes it exactly my kind of cooking. Enjoy!