Friday, June 1, 2012

Seen in May

So hard to believe sweet May has come and gone, and that sultrier days and the end of school loom on the horizon. Here are some glimpses of the past month, and a cherished recipe to share: Claudia Fleming's buttermilk panna cotta, one of our favorite ways to show off the tender little strawberries that are bringing a bright pop of color to fields and farmers' markets right now. Be sure to try this creamy, gently tangy dessert; it's a bit like a custard but lighter and spruces up nicely for guests, too.

And, I can't help but lose hours at a time to Nigel Slater's gorgeous cookbook Ripe: A Cook in the Orchard at the moment – particularly the juicy section devoted to strawberries. For less-than-stellar berries, Slater recommends quartering and dusting the fruit with sugar and finely grated orange zest, then setting aside for an hour to mellow.

Buttermilk Panna Cotta with Strawberries

  • 1 1/2 tsp. powdered gelatin
  • 7 TBS sugar plus additional for tossing with strawberries
  • 1 1/4 cups heavy (whipping) cream
  • 1 3/4 cups buttermilk
  • 1 vanilla bean, split longways (optional - you can get by without the vanilla bean)
  • Strawberries – pile them on, the best you can find!

Place the gelatin in a small bowl and add 1 TBS cold water. Let the gelatin sit for 5 min. to soften. 

Meanwhile, in a small pot, warm the cream and sugar over medium heat, whisking occasionally until sugar is dissolved. With the blade of a paring knife, scrape the vanilla pulp from both pod halves into the cream (reserve the pods for making vanilla sugar: put in a jar with a cup of sugar and keep in your cabinet). Whisk the gelatin into the cream until it is incorporated. Turn off the heat and add the buttermilk, then strain the whole mixture into a spouted measuring cup. Pour carefully into ramekins or pretty serving bowls and transfer to the refrigerator to chill for at least 3 hours (or until firm) before serving. 

About an hour before serving, slice the strawberries into halves or quarters and put in a bowl. Sprinkle with a little bit of sugar and let these sit at room temperature, stirring occasionally. When you're ready to serve the berries will have made their own sauce, which you can spoon with the strawberries over the panna cotta.  

Happy trails, May!