It’s a sure sign that summer can’t be far away when the first local strawberries of the season show up at farmers’ markets in New York City. What a difference between these and the over-sized, cottony brand-names ones from California! It pains me to buy those plastic-
looking berries (though they are great for making a tree centerpiece at Christmastime), and I really only do so when I’m desperate and local ones are out of season. I spotted some fresh-picked strawberries at the market today, along with beautiful pink stalks of
rhubarb, and was struck by the urge to make strawberry-rhubarb jam. But since I featured a Strawberry Rhubarb Compote here recently, I decided instead to make one of my favorite desserts, panna cotta, and top it with the sliced berries. It’s a play on the
classic strawberries and cream, and it makes a refreshing and delicious dessert. The panna cotta is made tangy with buttermilk (feel free to substitute milk or cream, if you like your panna cotta less tangy), while a vanilla bean gives it a fragrant endnote. I macerated the sliced strawberries with a little sugar and lemon juice, which made a saucy topping for the panna cotta. It’s a perfect ending to a spring dinner, with the promise of summer soon to come.