Thursday, March 13, 2008

Panna Cotta with Balsamic Strawberries

Although the calendar says it's almost spring, the weather outside still says winter. It's quite cold, and we still get snow several times a week. But we also get little periods of sunshine in the afternoons that cause everyone to come out of their homes and offices to enjoy that bit of warmth--a reminder of better days to come.

Years ago I went to the Strawberry Festival in Plant City, Florida. What a treat! And the flavor of those perfect strawberries has never been far from my memory. So when I saw a basket of strawberries from Plant City at my local grocery store, I knew this was just the taste of spring I've been looking for.

I remembered watching Ina Garten top strawberries with balsamic vinegar as a topping for panna cotta. I've been reading about panna cotta for years and had never tried it, so I figured it was time.

I made Ina's panna cotta recipe, but went my own way for the strawberries; these were served topped with lemon zest, a generous spoonful of balsamic strawberries, and finished with a couple of crumbled sugar-free lemon cookies.

Hello, Spring!

It was just what I was looking for: sweet, light, creamy, a little crunch from the cookies... a beautiful balance of vanilla, strawberry and lemon.

Panna Cotta with Balsamic Strawberries

Panna Cotta
recipe from Ina Garten

1/2 packet (1 teaspoon) unflavored gelatin powder
1-1/2 tablespoons cold water
1 1/2 cups heavy cream, divided
1 cup plain whole-milk yogurt
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract (I used homemade vanilla extract)
1/2 vanilla bean, split and seeds scraped (I used a mexican vanilla bean)
1/3 cup sugar (I used sugar substitute)
lemon zest for serving

In a small bowl, sprinkle the gelatin on 1 1/2 tablespoons of cold water. Stir and set aside for 10 minutes to allow the gelatin to dissolve.

Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, whisk together 3/4 cup of the cream, the yogurt, vanilla extract, and vanilla bean seeds.

Heat the remaining 3/4 cup of cream and the 1/3 cup of sugar in a small saucepan and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Off the heat, add the softened gelatin to the hot cream and stir to dissolve.

Pour the hot cream-gelatin mixture into the cold cream-yogurt mixture and stir to combine. (I did this whisking constantly.)

Pour into 4 (6 to 8-ounce) ramekins or custard cups (I poured into wine glasses, about half full) and refrigerate uncovered until cold. When the panna cottas are thoroughly chilled, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight. (I covered the panna cottas in wine glasses right after pouring.)

Balsamic Strawberries

2 pints (4 cups) fresh strawberries, washed, hulled and cut into quarters
1/4 cup white balsamic vinegar, simmered until reduced by half (this sweetens the vinegar significantly and takes away the acidic bite of the vinegar)
1/8 cup sugar (I used sugar substitute, WheyLow brand)

Combine the strawberries, balsamic vinegar and sugar. Refrigerate for 2-3 hours or until read to use.

This is my entry for Food for Plastic Challenge II: A Taste of Spring, hosted by What's Cooking?


Lulu said...

Oh man, do I love strawberries! There's a strawberry farm pretty close to where I live, so I'll definitely be hitting it up this summer.

My mom lives in Tampa, and she's been over to Plant City for the strawberry festival. I'm going to have to try to make it one day.

Mrs. W said...

You should go, it's fun! And I'm sure going with your mother will get you some awesome parent-points.

Ben said...

Oh, that looks really good! I have been craving strawberries for a while. Yummy!

Good luck!

Mrs. W said...

Thanks, Ben. It was even better than I expected it to be--and a perfect showcase for perfect berries.

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