October 06, 2010

Sweet Treat: Lemon Panna Cotta with Balsamic-Scented Strawberries

When it comes to dessert, I'm more of a cheese girl.  Give me a nibble or two of Comté , tempt my palate with Piave, let me get cosy with an award-winning Canadian clothbound cheddar.  Savoury over sweet has always held sway with me.

But even so, I do indulge in sweet treats, and more than occasionally.  When I do, it's the rich-creamy-whipped-cream variety that has the most appeal.  Simple is best; and if the dessert has lemon, it goes up a decided notch.  When I first had this gorgeous lemony panna cotta at a friend's house, I knew it would immediately become part of my repetoire.  Three steps, and a bit of planning, and I have a delicious treat that gives me pause before reaching for the cheese tray.

Lemon Panna Cotta
serves 8

This make ahead dessert is light, so it's perfect after a rich meal.  Served in pretty cups instead of ramekins, it becomes a beautiful centrepiece for a brunch gathering.  Top the panna cotta with fresh strawberries scented with balsamic vinegar.

1 envelope unflavoured gelatin
¼ c cold water
⅔ c sugar
2 c whipping cream, divided
⅓ c lemon juice
1 tbsp grated lemon peel
1 tbsp vanilla bean paste
1 c Greek style yogurt

1. Sprinkle gelatin over cold water in a small saucepan. Let sit five minutes. Warm gently until gelatin dissolves.

2. In another medium saucepan, gently heat sugar and half the cream. Cook just until sugar dissolves. Stir in lemon juice, peel and vanilla paste. Whisk in dissolved gelatin and cool 10 minutes. Whisk in remaining cream and yogurt.

Lots of lemony peel give the panna cotta a wonderful zing

Be sure to use thick Greek style yogurt - this is not the time to go for low fat

3. Divide mixture between 8 ramekins. Chill until set, at least two hours.

Our teacup collection is the perfect receptacle for the panna cotta

Balsamic-Scented Strawberries

While the panna cotta is chilling, prepare a fresh strawberry topping.

1½ c fresh strawberries, hulled and quartered
2 tsp balsamic vinegar
2 tsp sugar (more to taste)

Mix the berries, vinegar and sugar in a bowl. Set aside to macerate. When ready to serve the panna cotta, spoon some berries and their juices on top of each dish.

Pretty cups for a pretty dessert