Strawberries are in full swing! Sure, strawberries are available in the grocery store year round but if you want sweet juicy berries you’d better make the most of them now. Anything in season will always be better than those shipped from further afield, even if it’s in season where it’s being shipped from. The closer to the grower the food is sold, the riper it can be and still maintain quality.
Some fruits like apples can be turned into a myriad of guises and cooked in a variety of ways and still turn out great. Strawberries in my opinion are one of those things that are better when left with a minimum of fuss. The more you do to a strawberry usually the less it tastes like a strawberry. Simpler is better and cooking is definitely out. Some berries such as raspberries and blackberries develop intensity of flavor as they cook but I think strawberries just turn into a bland watery mess. Benefitting from little more than a bit of sugar and complementary flavors such as lemon, orange, lavender, almond or chocolate they require a minimal supporting cast and are beloved by the masses.
Yogurt Panna Cotta with Orange Scented Berries
The delicate texture of gently set cream contrasted with the bright fresh berries makes this absolutely luxurious! Replace the vanilla extract with orange blossom water for a light floral scent and flavor. Orange blossom water is available in health food stores, Mediterranean markets/delis, and some upscale grocery stores.
Yield: 8 servings
2 cups whipping cream (substitute half and half if desired)
2 teaspoons unflavored gelatin
½ cup sugar
1 2/3 cups non-fat plain or vanilla yogurt
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 lb. strawberries, washed and hulled
Finely chopped zest and juice of 1 orange
¼ cup sugar
Place ¼ cup of cream into a small bowl, sprinkle with gelatin. Let stand to soften about 10 minutes. While gelatin is softening, pour remaining cream and ½-cup sugar into a 2 quart saucepan and place over medium heat. Stir until sugar is dissolved. Pour into a large bowl. Add yogurt, softened gelatin/cream mixture, and vanilla extract and stir until well blended. Divide between eight martini or juice glasses and chill for several hours or overnight, until set.
Cut strawberries into quarters or sixths, depending on size. Add the orange zest and juice along with the sugar and mix well. Set aside for a few minutes to allow the sugar to dissolve.
Garnish the top of the panna cotta with the strawberries.