You must be thinking… “Black pepper? Did she make a mistake?”. That’s what I thought a few years ago when I heard that the strawberries I was eating with my vanilla ice cream had a pinch of fine ground pepper. I noticed something different, something that was making the entire dessert more potent but I would have never guessed that it was black pepper. I cannot explain what it is about it but it just enhances the flavor of the strawberries perfectly. Juxtaposition. Just like salt enhances dark chocolate or lemon enhances white chocolate.
Panna cotta is one of the simplest desserts to make. All you need is to do is heat some sweetened cream and add a bit of gelatin to it. Simple, creamy and delicious. I remember the first time I tried it at an Italian restaurant in Bilbao, Don Angelo’s. I liked it just for the name, panna cotta. Sounded so fabulous! I used to go there a lot with my university friends and I always ordered their panna cotta for dessert. It was plated almost like a flan with fresh fruit on the side.
Buttermilk Panna Cotta
1 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 vanilla bean
2 sheets of gelatin
1/2 cup buttermilk
In a small saucepan, boil the cream, sugar and vanilla bean. Remove pan from the heat once it comes to a boil. Remove the vanilla bean and safe for another use. In the meantime, softened the gelatin sheets in ice water for 5 minutes. Squeeze out any excess water from the gelatin and add it to the hot cream. Whisk so the gelatin dissolves well.
Let this mixture cool a little bit because if we were to add the buttermilk to the hot cream, the buttermilk would break. Once the cream is cool to the touch, add the buttermilk, stir and pour this mixture into your cups. Refrigerate for about 2 hours until gelatin sets well and is chilled.
Macerated Strawberry Salad
1 cup strawberries, small dice
2 Tbs sugar
pinch of finely ground black pepper
Mix the small dice strawberries with the sugar. Let this mixture sit at room temperature so the strawberries start to release some of their juice and they start to make a syrup with the sugar.
Spoon the strawberries on top of the chilled panna cotta. Sprinkle a tiny bit of black pepper on top of the strawberries and serve.
Try it and let me know what you think!