Just as spring began to emerge this year, I said to Valerie, “I really want to make rhubarb rose panna cotta.”

Of course, she smiled and said, “okay.”
What else would she say? Any excuse for us to get into the kitchen and whip up a sweet or a savory storm leaves us both grinning.

It took me a little while to locate some rhubarb for the subtly I needed in this recipe. But, I found it – along with a little piece of strawberry rose heaven.

The name panna cotta is not mentioned in Italian cookbooks before the 1960s, yet it is often cited as a traditional dessert of the northern Italian region of Piedmont. One (undocumented) story says that it was invented by a Hungarian woman in the Langhe in the early 1900s. An 1879 dictionary mentions a dish called latte inglese ‘English milk’, made of cream cooked with gelatin and molded, though other sources say that latte inglese is made with egg yolks; perhaps the name covered any thickened custard-like preparation.

The Region of Piedmont includes panna cotta in its 2001 list of traditional food products of the region.  Its recipe includes cream, milk, sugar, vanilla, gelatin, rum, and marsala poured into a mold with caramel. Another author considers the traditional flavoring to be peach eau-de-vie, and the traditional presentation not to have sauce or other garnishes.

Panna cotta became fashionable in the United States in the 1990s.

Strawberry Rose Rhubarb Panna Cotta

1 Tbs. unflavored, grass fed gelatin
2 Tbs. cold water
2 1/2 cups heavy cream
2 Tbs. rose water
1/3 cup Strawberry Rhubarb Jam*
dried rose petals

In a  small saucepan, sprinkle gelatin over water and let stand about 1 minute to soften. Heat gelatin mixture over low heat until gelatin is dissolved and remove pan from heat.

In a large saucepan, bring cream, rose water, and jam to a just barely a boil over moderately high heat, stirring. Remove pan from heat and stir in gelatin mixture. Divide cream mixture among 4 decorative coupes and cool to room temperature. Chill, covered, at least 4 hours or overnight. Sprinkle with dried rose petals just before serving.

*Strawberry Rhubarb Jam

Mix rhubarb and sugar in a large heavy pot and let stand for 2 hours; stir in lemon juice and strawberries. Bring the mixture to a boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Set heat to medium-high and cook jam at a full rolling boil until thickened, stirring often to prevent scorching, 20 to 25 minutes.
Remove jam from heat and stir for 2 to 3 more minutes; skim off any foam.

Sterilize jars for long-term jam storage, or fill mason jars with the jam and allow to cool before sealing the lid.

Can be kept in the fridge for up to three weeks.

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