from strawberries spring panna cotta


Hello, loverrr.

That is exactly what I said the first time I tried one of the strawberry panna cottas I’d just made with freshly picked strawberries from Ambrose Family Farms, a handful of farms in our area that spring into pick-your-own season in early May. When I told the hubby about my plan to pick strawberries with the kids, I kind of had this idealistic notion of what it would be like — my white eyelet sundress flapping romantically in the breeze, the kids’ faces charmingly dotted with wet strawberry juice, the hubby holding my hand while plucking strawberries into a wicker basket.

Uh, yeah. This is what actually happened:


Yes, friends, that is my darling daughter, looking guilty as all get-out for eating strawberries on the job even though I’d warned her not to shortly after we arrived.

As it turns out, the dirt on the farm is a fine black grit that gets kicked up at the slightest breeze. Of course on the day we went out we had more than a healthy gust that kicked up a minor duststorm, and so every few minutes we all got dusted in a nice thin black film of muck. The farmhand eyed our little guys as we sauntered up to the counter to demand four of their finest wicker baskets and said, “You gotta tell your kids not to eat the strawberries — they’re real dirty.”

Hence, the toddler who looks like she just emerged from a crime scene.

The other thing I should’ve anticipated is that any time my family gets in a “pick your own” kind of situation — well, we just don’t know when to quit. “What a deal!” the hubby and I screeched when we arrived to discover the strawberries were a mere $2.50 a pound. We encouraged the kids to pluck their hearts out — to the tune of nearly 19 dollars’ worth of strawberries. Yes, my friends, we came home with almost 8 pounds – eight- of strawberries.

You’d barely know it, though. By dinnertime that evening almost half our loot had disappeared into the bellies both tiny and adult, and I found myself scratching my head over what to do with the remaining strawberries before they lost their freshness and luster. Luckily, my secret best friend Ina Garten came through for me again with this lovely balsamic strawberry panna cotta garnished with lemon zest.

So yeah, our blackened feet covered in soot from the farm and our children’s sticky faces may not have been the romantic Saturday morning I’d envisioned in my head, but it did produce four of these marvelous springtime desserts that made it all worthwhile.


Update: a link to this post was recently featured on The Kitchn.  Thanks, Apartment Therapy!

Panna Cotta & Balsamic Strawberries
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
A refreshing spring dessert using in-season strawberries from Ambrose Farms on Wadmalaw Island, SC.
Serves: 4
  • 1 packet unflavored gelatin
  • 3 tablespoons cold water
  • 1½ cups heavy cream, divided
  • 1 cup plain lowfat yogurt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ⅓ cup sugar
  • 4 cups fresh strawberries, hulled and halved
  • 4 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon light brown sugar
  • freshly grated lemon zest, for serving
  1. In a small bowl, sprinkle the gelatin over the cold water and allow it to sit for 10 minutes for the gelatin to dissolve (it should become thick and viscous during that time).
  2. Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, whisk together the yogurt, vanilla extract and ¾ cup of the cream.
  3. Over medium heat, heat remaining ¾ cup cream and sugar until simmering, stirring constantly.
  4. Remove from heat and stir in gelatin.
  5. Mix together the hot cream and cold cream mixture until thoroughly combined.
  6. Divide mixture among four ramekins or small bowls and refrigerate overnight.
  7. One hour before serving, stir balsamic vinegar, light brown sugar and sliced strawberries together in a bowl and let sit at room temperature.
  8. Remove panna cottas from refrigerator and place in a casserole dish filled with lukewarm water.
  9. Run a sharp knife along the edge of the ramekins to loosen panna cottas and invert onto a dish.
  10. Garnish with strawberries and finish with lemon zest.
  11. (Alternatively, you could serve the panna cottas in a small dish set on top of a plate and covered in strawberries.)

Adapted from Ina Garten’s recipe here