in the kitchen with: alex van buren

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This week’s recipe for Mint Panna Cotta with Strawberries and Balsamic Vinegar comes from freelance food journalist Alex Van Buren. Though strawberry season may have passed for some of you, they’re readily available in most grocery stores and the mint panna cotta is lovely all on its own. (If you like, try substituting persimmons — or something else fantastic that you can share with us on the column!) –Kristina

About Alex: Alex Van Buren, a Brooklyn-based freelance journalist, editor and recipe tester, is a former staff food writer for Time Out New York and research editor for Martha Stewart Living. She has written for,, In Style, Martha Stewart Weddings, Everyday Food and Edible Manhattan, among other publications. She is the co-author of the new-this-year book Clean Plates N.Y.C, and about a million years ago she edited pop culture titles for Da Capo Press. Alex is working on starting a food-related nonprofit in her spare time.

[Photos by Jennifer Causey]

CLICK HERE for the full post and recipe after the jump!

Why Alex chose this recipe: Mario Batali’s recipe didn’t need tweaking, but I love mint, and this visual — emerald green with the ruby berries drenched in balsamic — makes people swoon a bit. There’s nothing like a silky panna cotta to make you want to pick up a plate and lick its entirety. My late granny’s vintage Rosenthal china is showcased here; it is the only item in my faux-retro-styled studio I truly hold dear. Photography by Jennifer Causey.

[portrait by Jenene Chesbrough]


Modified to fit Alex’s tastes, original recipe from Mario Batali and

Mint Panna Cotta with Strawberries and Balsamic Vinegar

Makes 6

* 2 tablespoons water

* 1 1/4 teaspoons unflavored gelatin

* 2 cups whipping cream

* 1 1/4 cups plain goat’s-milk, whole-milk or Greek yogurt

* 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

* Eight large sprigs of mint (with 3 to 5 leaves on each), stems left intact, plus six tiny sprigs for garnish (Optional)

* 1/2 cup sugar


* 2 1-pint baskets strawberries, hulled, thinly sliced

* 3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

* 1 tablespoon sugar

* 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

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For panna cotta:

Pour 2 tablespoons water into small bowl. Sprinkle gelatin over water. Let stand until softened, about 15 minutes. Whisk 1 cup cream, yogurt and vanilla in large bowl to blend. Mash mint, including stems, for 1 minute in mortar and pestle or in large bowl using spoon. Heat remaining 1 cup cream, mint and 1/2 cup sugar in small saucepan over medium heat, stirring until sugar dissolves and cream comes to simmer. Allow to simmer for one minute, stirring constantly. Remove from heat. Add gelatin to cream mixture, stirring to dissolve gelatin. Cool for thirty seconds. Remove mint sprigs using slotted spoon or pour through small strainer or colander. Mix hot cream-gelatin mixture into yogurt mixture in bowl. Divide mixture among six 3/4-cup ramekins, using about 1/2 cup for each. Refrigerate desserts uncovered until cold, then cover and refrigerate overnight.

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For strawberries:

Toss strawberries, vinegar, sugar and pepper in large bowl to combine. Let stand 30 minutes, tossing occasionally. Unmold each panna cotta from its ramekin: Run a paring knife around the top inner edge of ramekin, then dip bottom of ramekin in a bowl of boiling water for 10 seconds. Invert ramekin onto serving plate. Holding ramekin tightly to plate, shake firmly to release panna cotta. Spoon strawberries over or alongside panna cotta. Place each sprig of mint in palm of hand; slap with other hand to release aroma. Garnish each dessert, and serve.

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Adapted recipe printed with permission of

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  1. Anna says:

    That vintage Rosenthal china really is lovely! What a treasure.

  2. catherine says:

    I can’t wait to try this! Thank you for the inspiration.

  3. Sarade says:

    I love the blue wall! Striking with the teapot. Balsamic vinegar seems to be getting more attention these days. I just saw it used as the focal ingredient on Iron Chef.

  4. These reciepes looks so tasty. It made me hungry!

  5. Kira says:

    I agree with Anna – I LOOOVE the vintage china! The photos are lovely, too, and that recipe looks pretty yum.

  6. erin says:

    Yum! Balsamic and strawberries! I going to see if I can find that china right now! I love the pitcher!

  7. Chrissy says:

    This sounds really intriguing- can anyone tell me what panna cotta tastes like? It seems cheesecakey…

    1. grace says:


      panna cotta is amazing if made properly. it’s like a milky jello, but smoother and richer. at least that’s what it tastes like to me. i can’t get enough of vanilla panna cotta. this recipe is delicious, too:

  8. kristina says:

    milky jello… maybe a pudding that’s a bit firmer?

    1. grace says:

      yes, that sounds much nicer ;)

  9. Hey, guys. Thanks for all the kind words, and props to Jennifer for the gorgeous dish shots. It’s an excellent recipe that can easily be tweaked to incorporate sweet oranges, and is delicious even without mint, since there’s a vanilla bean base.

    As per the texture, panna cotta, to echo Grace and Kristina, is somewhere between a pudding and a creme brulee — super-silky. It’s a super-simple recipe that impresses the heck out of folks!


  10. Leslie Bockol says:

    love the china! i actually have 2 pcs from that pattern, found at different times at the same antique store…. it’s been packed up for a yr since my move, but I think it’s designed by pucci for rosenthal, if I remember right. Gotta dig that out…. esp since I just realized that I painted my new living room and dining room light green and orange, respectively!

  11. Lara says:

    Now I am on the hunt for that teapot. Love this post!

  12. Leslie, thanks so much for the info about the china pattern! It totally is Pucci by Rosenthal, circa 1962, and was a collaborative line. My family didn’t know the exact lineage till you pointed that out. And Lara, it looks like pieces occasionally pop up on eBay, including some super-trippy-60s plates. –A.

  13. Eniko says:

    that looks delicious! i’m definitly going to try to make it.

  14. joe kennedy says:

    Great shoes, awesome knife. Will make this recipe, bookmarking now…


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