Fresh flowers are easily my favorite way to decorate my apartment, even though my boyfriend doesn't necessarily agree (he has a thing against falling petals). Regardless of what he thinks, I'm getting into the habit of buying fresh cut flowers to place here and there. I love how a simple arrangement can instantly bring an entire room to life, and they always make me smile.
I've used flowers in a few of my food photos before, but I wanted to try to really feature them, instead of just placing them in the background as an accent (clearly a result of working on foraging cookbooks at work). Since I'm not going to be foraging anytime soon (because I live in the concrete jungle and it's a balmy 13 degrees right now), my photos will have to make due with what I can pick up at my grocery store.
And since its Valentine's Day, what better flower to work with than the rose? And since we're all procrastinators (don't deny it--I'm posting a V-day recipe the day before and you're here reading it), what better dessert to work roses into than panna cotta?
Panna cotta is perhaps the easiest dessert ever. It's incredibly hands-off; it takes just a few minutes (like 15 max, and that's including 10 minutes where you're not really doing anything). I've tried many different panna cotta recipes (from chocolate to yogurt to buttermilk), but this one uses my favorite base recipe. Out of all the variations I've tried, this one is the creamiest, richest, and sets the fastest (always a plus). My cousin Angie has been making this version for years. It's normally made with a bit of vanilla extract for flavor, but in honor of everyone's favorite holiday, I swapped it out for a little rose water. Rose water can be a little strong, so don't go overboard with it. I found a teaspoon to be plenty, but even 3/4 teaspoon would be enough to give a nice hint of floral flavor.
This creamy rose water panna cotta is a luscious, indulgent treat to make for your Valentine. And since it takes less than 15 minutes to prepare and needs a few uninterrupted hours in the fridge, it's perfect for making ahead. Valentine's Day is saved!
Rose Panna Cotta
recipe adapted slightly from À La Carte, by María Villegas
For the Panna Cotta
1 cup milk
3 teaspoons unflavored gelatin
2 ⅓ cups heavy cream
1 teaspoon rose water
7 tablespoons sugar
pinch of salt
For the Topping
fresh strawberries, thinly sliced
very finely chopped unsalted pistachios
Add the milk to a medium saucepan and sprinkle the gelatin on top. Let stand for ten minutes. In the meantime, prepare an ice bath in a large plastic bowl. Add the cream and rosewater to a bowl.
After ten minutes have passed, heat the milk and gelatin over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the gelatin has dissolved. Remove the saucepan from the heat, add the sugar and salt, and stir until dissolved.
Slowly pour in the cream mixture, whisking constantly. Transfer the cream mixture from the saucepan to a clean bowl, and place the bowl in the ice bath. Leave the mixture sit in the ice bath for ten minutes, stirring occasionally, until the mixture has thickened. After the ten minutes, pass this mixture through a fine-mesh sieve, and then pour into small ramekins or pretty glassware.
Cover the panna cottas with plastic wrap, and place in the fridge to firm, at least four hours. Serve chilled with a sprinkling of finely chopped pistachios and a few thin strawberry slices.