Living the good life: Lemon Panna Cotta

The Sweetie walks along Pacific Beach, I sit above on the palisades—our old Sunday morning routine. Cliffs crowded at 10:00, I join a French-speaking couple on their concrete banquette under a spiky patch of palm-tree shade. 

Below on the white sand a stocky man in a Minnesota Twins T-shirt, radiating with unfamiliar sunburn, smears lotion on a naked toddler—mom stretched out nearby on a towel under a red umbrella. Toddler, with Dad at the ready, runs into the surf, is promptly smacked down by a wave, jumps up, and runs back to Mom’s open arms. 

A little girl in a neon orange life vest, bright blue wetsuit, and yellow surfboard falls off once, falls off twice, falls off seven times—on number eight, she rises warily to her feet, arms thrust forward, finally surfing, “Woo hoo.” French couple cheers and claps, “Bien joué, Emmie !”

A four-year old boy, being led unwillingly into the foam, clutches his Dad’s arm and shrieks, “No, no! I don’t wanna’ go out there! Get Mom!!”

Behind me on yoga mats, three travelers trade stories. A black-bearded man in a Red Sox baseball cap and his pleasant wife, on vacation from Boston, talk to a handsome thirty-year old with a prosthetic leg. 

Bearded man to handsome man, “So, how’d ja lose your leg?”

“My Harley ran into his Prius, I lost that matchup and my leg.”

Bearded man, “Add that to my list of why I hate Prius. Well you know the old saying, ‘Always ask a one-legged man the quickest way to get somewhere.’”

Silence from handsome man with one leg.

Beautiful girl in black bikini, “I got so much sand up my pants I may have to stop by Urgent Care.”

Surfer dude, “And miss Sunday beach yoga? No way!”

Emmie finds the French-speaking couple, they leave, and a fit, fortyish man, wearing a Led Zeppelin T-shirt and a bodysuit of tattoos, introduces himself and asks if he could join me. We sit in silence watching the paragliders drift by.

Steve removes his shirt and asks, “Would it be all right if I stand on our bench?” “Sure,” I reply. He hops up, turns around and announces, “Welcome to San Diego Sunday Beach Yoga. “Shift gears, turn your mind inward, and relax. Let’s start with cleansing breaths—balance your inhales and exhales—then go right into downward dog. Inhale!”

I turn around and along the palisades I see at least two hundred butts in the air.


Back home on Candlelight Drive, The Sweetie has yogurt and fruit, I have lemon panna cotta smeared with lemon curd and a thick slice of cinnamon-raisin toast.


Karen met this year’s bumper crop of lemons head on: a garage-refrigerator shelf of small, white, ceramic ovals filled with lemon panna cotta, little glass jars with lemon curd, Zip lock bags bulging with lemon juice ice cubes, bottles of lemonade, crocks of preserved lemon peel, and packets of frozen zest. Now that’s prosperity.

Lemon Panna Cotta

  • 1 cup whole milk 
  • 2¾ teaspoons gelatin 
  • 3 cups heavy cream 
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 1tablespoon grated lemon zest
  • ¼ cup fresh lemon juice from 1-2 medium lemons
  • 6 tablespoons sugar
  • Pinch salt

Pour milk into medium saucepan. Sprinkle surface evenly with gelatin. Let stand 10 minutes to hydrate gelatin

Measure cream into large measuring cup or pitcher. Add vanilla to cream. Add lemon peel, and set mixture aside.

Set eight 4-ounce ramekins on baking sheet.

Heat milk and gelatin mixture over high heat, stirring constantly, until gelatin is dissolved, about 1½ minutes. Move the saucepan off heat, add sugar and salt; stir until dissolved, about 1 minute.

Stirring constantly, slowly pour cream mixture into saucepan containing milk. Strain mixture into large measuring cup or pitcher, stir in lemon juice, then distribute evenly among wine glasses or ramekins.

Cover baking sheet with plastic wrap

Refrigerate until just set (mixture should wobble when shaken gently), 4 hours.

This entry was posted in Family and friends, Restaurants, Travel. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Living the good life: Lemon Panna Cotta

  1. Marilyn says:

    Bien joué was perfect! I can’t imagine having so many fresh lemons – I felt lucky this morning at Granville Island just finding some local figs. Enjoy your California time, although up north it feels pretty Calaforniaish right now.

  2. Patricia Curtis says:

    Well, dear sweeties, my lips are puckering right now thinking of all those fresh lemons…and I especially liked the ” Butts up” yoga on the beach…what a refreshing visit you must of had. Lots of love to you…JB

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.