For the past few weeks, I've been hooked on cherries. They've just been too good to ignore. Ruby-red orbs glistening in the hot summer sun streaming down at the market. So, I've caved in and bought a couple of batches of them and combed through my cookbooks and recipe collection for just the right purpose to which to put this seasonal delicacy.
The first set that I bought were the eating kind, sweet and juicy. I bought a cherry pitter, which initially proved a bit of a challenge to try to use. Hands gloved so as not to stain my fingers blood red, I managed to get the tricky thing to work and removed the stones from about half of the cherries. I was also successful in getting cherry juice on my sweatpants, the t-shirt I was wearing, my living room floor, and on my body.
My first recipe to tackle was one from Patricia Wells' At Home in Provence cookbook (this is the same one from which my apricot tart also came). With some goat cheese bought at the Greenmarket and eggs I picked up from a local supplier who is also there on Saturdays, I made her Cherry & Goat Cheese Gratin. I wish I'd taken a photo of it, as the results were gorgeous and so simple to make, well, once I'd pitted the cherries for it. One bite and it was everything to love in a dessert: creaminess with sweet delicate fruit bursting in the mouth.
My next project, taken on to use up the last of the cherries, was Sweet Cherry Clafoutis from a recipe by Paula Wolfert from Food & Wine (search their recipe index by Wolfert and 2005). I've seen this recipe several places and decided that it was time to try it. I have to say, honestly, this was not a winner for me. I made individual portions using small Pyrex cups. It looks lovely, but I wasn't won over by it. Unlike the first recipe, the custard surrounding the fruit was just sort of blah. It needed something else. The fruit also just didn't seem to be at its best in this dessert.
My next venture was this weekend, when I took on sour cherries. These bright, candy-apple red gems are so tempting to pop in one's mouth, but you should definitely resist that urge unless you want to pucker up. These are so tart that tartness doesn't even define it. I know, I sampled one of these as I was pitting them (this time I did that over the kitchen sink which had better and less messy results).
That didn't matter, however, as these beauties were headed into a granita. All it takes is water, sugar, cherries, and a pinch of salt blended together in a food processor and then put in the freezer to crystallize. This particular recipe I had pulled from an old copy of "La Cucina Italiana." I can't find it on line, but I did find several similar versions that you can draw from. Served in a champagne glass, it looks gorgeous, and can be topped with a dollop of fresh whipped cream to make it a little decadent.
Remember the Italian ices of your childhood? That's what this resembles, with just a little bit more effort and time than buying a food-color dyed cup from the ice cream truck. It's sweet, a bit tart, and very refreshing for the steamy summer weather we've been having on the East Coast.