Every Spring when we get teased with warm, sunny days ..... my rhubarb-dar starts to go off, and I go on a mad (slightly premature) hunt all over nyc for my favorite, super-seasonal treat. I always start with the farmers market, and if I don't find any there, then I make my way to whole foods (which is usually a toss up), and then lastly I'll hit up my most reliable rhubarb source (Dean + Deluca) and bingo. I know I can almost always find rhubarb (prematurely) when my rhubarb-dar goes off early and I just need to have some.
The first day my rhubarb-dar went off this season, Michael and I were wandering around the city and ended up at the farmers market. It was such a gorgeous day and the market was FILLED with ramps and fiddleheads, and one little stand with a small amount of rhubarb. I should have bought all of the rhubarb as soon as I spotted it, but we wandered a little more and when I went back someone had bought ALL of the rhubarb. I was so devastated. Also, that person is my soulmate. So, I guess you know what happened next. I did not give up until I found some more rhubarb, and brought it home to cook down and throw into the freezer. I was hopping on a plane the next day to the west coat and I wanted my rhubarb ready as soon as I got home.
Last week was our anniversary and we spent it driving all up the west coast, spending time along the way in san diego, LA, big sur, and napa .............. oh!! and we also stumbled on the artichoke "capital of the world" in castroville, CA, and I couldn't have been happier to snapchat my way around their artichoke monuments and eat at the all-artichoke restaurant. The whole trip was a super fun way to celebrate four years of marriage, and the drive along the pacific coast highway was something I have always wanted to do. I'm an ocean girl, and being near the ocean is pretty much all I need to be happy. That, and artichokes. The ocean + artichokes + really good food + rhubarb + Michael (also our dog and some good friends) are all I really need to be happy.
This rhubarb creation is so simple to throw together, and the strawberry crunch is a super addicting topping that would also be great over ice cream or so many other desserts. I have made a number of rhubarb recipes for this blog, but not until this recipe have I paired rhubarb with strawberry, it's perfect mate. This crunch is a unique way to incorporate the strawberry, and this panna cotta is my new favorite way to celebrate rhubarb and spring and all the goodness that comes with this time of year!
rhubarb panna cotta + strawberry coconut crunch (df+gf)
for the panna cotta:
4 cups of rhubarb (5-8 stalks depending on how big they are), green tops discarded, red-ish parts diced
1/2 cup of granulated coconut sugar (maple syrup works as well if you prefer)
1/4 teaspoon of sea salt
1 vanilla bean, scraped (or 1 tablespoon of vanilla extract)
14oz can of full fat coconut milk
2 tablespoons of agar flakes
for the strawberry coconut crunch:
3/4 cup of frozen strawberries
1 teaspoon of vanilla
1/4 teaspoon of sea salt
2 tablespoons of maple syrup
2 tablespoons of brown rice syrup
1 cup of thick coconut flakes
1/2 cup of rolled oats
garnish: several mint leaves (chopped or whole)
Cook down the rhubarb + make the panna cotta:
- Heat a large, heavy bottomed pot over medium-low heat and add the rhubarb, sugar and salt. Cook for about 15-20 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the rhubarb is soft. Watch the mixture and make sure it does not start to boil and bubble, you do not want the rhubarb to burn. Mash the rhubarb with a potato masher in order to get a (semi) smooth consistency.
- Add the vanilla bean, coconut milk, agar flakes, and stir to combine. Cook for another 20 minutes, while stirring occasionally, and make sure the mixture does not come to a boil. If it does, turn the heat down slightly.
- Using an immersion blender, blend the mixture until smooth. You can also do this using a food processor or blender. Ladle the mixture into small, individual bowls. For mine, I used 4" mini staub pots (which you see in the photos) but you can use any vessel (ramekins, mini bowls) in any size that you choose. At the 4" size, I filled up 4 of those mini pots.
- Refrigerate for a minimun of 3 hours, or overnight, before serving.
While the panna cotta is setting, make the strawberry coconut crunch:
- Pre-heat the oven to 300º. Line a small baking sheet with parchment paper.
- Using a food processor, blend the frozen strawberries, vanilla, salt, and maple syrup until smooth. Remove the blade (so you won't have to worry about stickiness) and add the brown rice syrup. Stir with a spoon to incorporate. Add the coconut flakes and oats and stir until evenly coated.
- Pour the strawberry coconut mixture onto the baking sheet, and spread it out so it's in one, thin layer. Bake for 15 minutes, remove and stir up the ingredients and spread them out again. Bake for another 15 minutes. At this point the mixture should be slightly brown, however, it might not seem super crunchy yet, but it will get more crunchy as it cools. Let it cool, and if it is not crunchy enough, return it to the oven for another few minutes and then let it cool again.
Assemble, and serve:
- You can either serve these in their bowls/vessels, or you can remove them from their vessel and serve them on a small plate. However you chose to serve them, top them with a generous helping of the strawberry coconut crunch and also with a couple of leaves of mint (chopped or whole). Enjoy!