Oh, look. Strawberries and cream.
With ripe berries, such a perfect pairing wants only a gentle enhancement of both foods' abundant natural appeal. Plus, since agar powder sets up quickly, all you need to do is set aside less than ten minutes to prepare the cream before you make your meal, and this creamy, gorgeous, indulgent dish finishes in the fridge until time for dessert. Perfect for (surprise) entertaining or any other special occasion. Like the season's first strawberries.
And, of course, remember that if you don't have ramekins, you can always serve panna cotta without unmolding--use wine glasses if you have them, or if you don't, any short drinking glass will do the trick.
Vegan Panna Cotta with Balsamic Macerated Strawberries
1 14-oz can full-fat coconut milk (we use Thai Kitchen brand) , stirred if separated
3 TBSP natural cane sugar (evaporated cane juice)
1/4 tsp plus 1/8 tsp agar agar powder
1 tsp vanilla extract
For the strawberries:
1 pint strawberries, trimmed and halved (or sliced, if large)
1 tsp natural cane sugar (or a little more, if your berries are tart)
1 tsp good-quality balsamic vinegar
1 tsp lime juice
generous pinch freshly cracked black pepper
One hour before serving, combine all the ingredients for the strawberries, toss well, cover with a towel, and set aside for the full hour.
Meanwhile, to make the panna cotta, pour 1/2 cup of the coconut milk into a small saucepan and pour the rest into the bowl of a food processor fitted with the S blade.
To the milk in the saucepan, add the 3 TBSP sugar, all the agar powder, and vanilla extract. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, immediately reduce to a low simmer, and cook, whisking frequently, over low to medium-low heat for 5 minutes.
Immediately pour the heated milk mixture into the rest of the milk in the processor and process on the lowest setting for 1 minute. Scrape the sides, stir to ensure no thick, syrupy clumps have settled to the bottom, and process for 1 minute more.
Pour the mixture evenly into four ramekins (we have 8-oz ramekins). Because the lightest, frothiest cream will pour off first, pour a small amount into each ramekin, then go back and fill each with the remaining cream to ensure even setting. Transfer to the refrigerator and leave until fully set, 45-60 minutes.
To unmold onto plates, run a thin knife around the circumference, invert the ramekin on the plate, give the bottom a few taps with the handle of the knife, and remove the ramekin. (If it doesn't come out on the first try, insert the knife at the side again and give a gentle pull inward to release the bottom, then invert the ramekin onto the plate and tap it again.) The panna cotta will jiggle, but will unmold cleanly, will keep its shape when cut into, but have a very creamy mouthfeel. Spoon the macerated strawberries over the top, and serve.