I dreamt of Italy last night. Again. What is it about this country that gets you hooked? Sure they have all that glorious nature, wonderful, exuberant people, pizza, gelato, opera, unforgettable sunsets over the Colosseum, etc... but I have traveled to lots of exotic, remote corners of the world (getting almost crippled by the weight of my backpack, a.k.a. my best friend), saw incredibly beautiful things, met all kinds of people, and ate my way across several continents and none of these places trigger as many nostalgic emotions as Italy does. And things ought to get better, as far as my daydreams are concerned anyway. Memories get better with age. They get wrapped in this strange fog like filter. You know, like the ones they use to make new photos look old. You look at them, immediately see a story there, and in your mind it all plays out in slow motion. But I digest, as Joey Tribiani so eloquently put it.( If you don't know who Joey Tribiani is, you should probably stop reading this blog). What I wanted to talk about here are lemons. Amalfi lemons, to be precise. These ubiquitous little gems that litterally fall on your shoulders when you take a stroll on the notoriously narrow roads of the Amalfi. You can't escape the scent of lemons here, they're everywhere. In the air, in your pasta, in your salad, in baba al limone or that hornlike little thang Italians call sfogliatelle. What surprised me the most was that it's mostly the zest of lemon that is used, rather than the juice.
So in keeping with tradition, I made this lemony panna cotta today. Not a traditional one, as this version is made with buttermilk and lots of lemon zest, making it lighter and tangier than the usual panna cotta made with cream. And because strawberries are in season, why not serve your panna cotta with some honey-lemon strawberry salad?
Finally, if you're ever in the Amalfi region please, oh please have some lemon granita for me. And maybe a shot of Limoncello. Or two.Thank you.
Buttermilk panna cotta with honey-lemon strawberry salad
750 ml buttermilk
100 g sugar
zest of one organic lemon
3 1/2 gelatin leaves, softened in cold water
1 cup sliced strawberries
1/2 tsp mild honey
juice of half a lemon
In a medium saucepan combine buttermilk with sugar and lemon zest. Bring to a slow simmer, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Do not boil. Squeeze out excess water from gelatin and add to buttermilk mixture. Stir to dissolve completely. Strain into 4 cups and refrigerate at least 6 hours.
For the salad combine all ingredients and spoon atop panna cottas.
Serves 4 of you or 1 of me.