My plan for this week’s television segment was sidelined when I got an email from Clarkdale Fruit Farms announcing that the orchard’s cherry crop had come in. I LOVE cherries—and I couldn’t resist the chance to cook with them during their short but glorious local season.
My friend Michael Collins, chef at the new Mexican Fusion restaurant Ponte in Shelburne Falls, Massachusetts, had recently informed me that he makes gazpacho with cherries. So of course I brought him along to cook with me on Mass Appeal. Michael actually worked a lot harder than I did, but we all had a good time.
I’m not sure I’d swear that I could taste the cherries in his soup—but whatever I tasted, it was awfully good: spicy and substantial. He was kind enough to share the recipe with me, and here it is. If you watch the video below, you’ll see that some of his quantities are subject to improvisation; I KNOW he threw in a lot more herbs and vinegar than he calls for in the recipe!
1 pound ripe tomatoes, seeded, diced, an drained (or 2 cups canned seeded tomatoes)
1 pound pitted cherries (about a pint)
1 small red onion
1/2 teaspoon chipotle pepper in adobo
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 cup vegetable stock or water
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 clove garlic
1 teaspoon cilantro or parsley
the juice of 1 lime and the zest of 1/2 lime
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
3 tablespoons blanched almonds
2 tablespoons mint leaves
2 sliced pitted cherries and mint leaves for garnish
Place all ingredients (except the cherries and mint for garnish) in a blender. Blend well.
Chill in the refrigerator for several hours.
Serve in your favorite bowl or glass, topped with cherry slices and mint.
Serves 6 as a first course.
I prepared something very simple, a cherry cobbler, which we dubbed “Cherry Plop Pie” on the air since the topping is simply plopped on. The cherries looked gorgeous in this recipe, and the cobber or pie or whatever you want to call it was well received.
Thanks to Oxo for sending me the cherry pitter I used! Yes, one does have to separate the pits manually from the cherries in a few cases, especially if one is a klutz in the kitchen like me. In general, however, this device sped up the task of making the cobbler/pie considerably—and kept the kitchen and my hands cleaner.
And thanks to Clarkdale for the Balaton cherries, which gave this dish its gorgeous color and flavor.
for the fruit base:
1/2 cup sugar
2 tablespoons cornstarch
4 cups pitted cherries
2 tablespoons lemon juice
for the cobbler crust:
1 cup flour
2 tablespoons sugar
1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter
1/4 cup milk
1 egg, beaten
for the topping:
sparkling sugar as needed
Begin by making the base. Combine the sugar and cornstarch in a smallish nonreactive pot. Stir in the cherries and lemon juice. Cover this mixture and let it sit for a while until the cherries juice up. (Half an hour should do!)
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Butter a 1-1/2 quart casserole dish.
Uncover the cherry mixture and bring it to a boil, stirring occasionally. Boil, stirring gently, for 1 minute. Remove the fruit from the heat. Spread the cherry mixture in the prepared baking dish.
To make the crust whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Cut in the butter, but don’t overdo the process. You should still have tiny pieces of butter in the mixture.
Whisk together the milk and egg. Add them to the dry ingredients, and mix just until moist. Drop this mixture onto the fruit mixture, and spread it around to cover the fruit. Sprinkle sparkling sugar on the top for crunch and glow.
Bake until lightly browned, 20 to 25 minutes. Serves 8.
And now the video!