Cherries... A love story. Cherries are still, along with other stone fruits, one of those once-a-year-come-and-get-it-now foods. In a world where so many foods are available year round, which in by no means give them the attributes of tasty and/or affordable by way, that's something I am madly in love with. I live for seasonal eating. It's better on all counts, starting with the intoxicating flavors and scents of recently picked fruits and vegetables.
I love the anticipation building up in March waiting for the first weekend we'll go strawberry picking. Waiting for the end of May to bite into the first local peach, juice going down my elbow, its soft skin brushing my cheeks with every bite. Living with blue fingers and tongue all throughout the Summer from blackberry and blueberry picking..and eating...and juicing. With October, I am ready for the local apple crops to flood the farmers maker stalls.
Comes cherry season and it's far more than just love of seasonal food that is awaken in me. It's a whole part of my history. My childhood. My life in France. Nostalgia is definitely a driving force in who I am as a person and certain foods fall right in that category. Not only do they remind me of wonderful times spent back home but they also define my cooking and baking in the present moment.
Growing up in Apt, in Provence, we were lucky to have a few cherry trees in the backyard. We had cherry picking parties where friends were invited to lounge under the cherry trees after an afternoon of filling up their baskets. When we moved near Aix En Provence, our yard was a food lover's dream come true. Figs, strawberries, raspberries, red currants, apricots and more cherries.
The best moments of my childhood were spent in between rosemary bush, a patch of lavender and perched high on a cherry tree. You can safely guess that there is not one family recipe that does not come with a tug at my heart.
I get the same pinch, tug or pull every time I grabbed the first cherries of the season and make clafoutis. It's like a tradition. Cherries. Clafoutis. Repeat. Except there is rarely enough left for anything else. One for the clafoutis. One for me. Repeat again. This time, granted after overloading at the market, I had enough for clafoutis, a cake or two and a salad.
One thing I am not used to, even after 14 years here, is the heat. That suffocating heat that grabs your throat and chest. I have learned that the secret to Summer living here resides in three habits: do things at night, do them early in the morning and lastly, do not stop moving. Stopping in that heat will knock the wind from under your sails. So what do we do? We do a bit of all three. We start the work day earlier than normal, do not stop until dinner time and I rarely turn the oven on before 10 or 11pm.
I am growing slowly enamored with those evening rituals. I let my mind wander and the nostalgia comes wafting in by waves. Small splashes at first with each lemon zested and egg broken and whisked. Huge floods take over once I set out baked goods to cool and the smells vanilla and sugar whipped up with fruits or chocolate take over every nook and crannies of the house.
When it comes to lunch or dinners, we are grilling everyday and eating lots of fresh salads loaded with grains and vegetables. One salad I have completely fallen in love with came as an accident. Sort of. I was already inspired to make a version of this fennel, radish, cherry salad from Beatrice at La Tartine Gourmande intrigued by this combination of the three ingredients.
Some leftover grilled salmon one day prompted me to add this to the fennel, radish and cherry combination. A little lemon juice, olive oil and oregano and we were in for the best salad we've had in a long time. Bill asked for seconds. That's rare at lunchtime. He asked for leftovers the day after. We were about to fight over it when I said "there's cherry cake for dessert!".
But not just cherry cake.... Warm and light vanilla cake loaded with cherries and a pistachio crumble topping. We took advantage of an impeding storm to head out to the yard and enjoy a few short minutes of a cool breeze passing by. Under the pecan tree this time. Hope you enjoy the cherry recipes after the jump! Someone needs to hold me back...I am slightly nervous that there is no clafoutis for dessert tonight! Ahaha! Have a great week everyone!
It's like Summer does not officially start unless there is a clafoutis involved. The recipe originated with my grandmother and years after her passing, it's my way to pay homage to her ways around the kitchen. And was she a fine cook. And a loving one too. There was never one of anything. Probably why she had six children too. Ah!
Serves 6 to 8
1 to 1 1/2 cups cherries, pitted
1/3 cup honey
1/2 cup whole milk
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup gluten free flour of your choice(I used red rice flour but you can use all purpose)
powdered sugar (optional)
Preheat the oven to 350F and position a rack in the middle. Place all the cherries in a 8-inch round pie tin slightly coated with some melted butter (or cooking spray if you wish).
In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs and honey until well combined. Add the milk, cream and flour and whisk until smooth. Slowly pour over the cherries, trying not to disturb them too much so to speak. Bake for 30-40 minutes until golden brown.
Serve at room temperature with some powdered sugar dusted on top if desired.
Cherry Cakes With Pistachio Crumble Topping:
Makes one 10-inch cake or four 4-inch ones.
For the crumble topping:
5 tablespoons cold butter
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar, packed
1/3 cup millet flour (or all purpose)
1/3 cup pistachios, dry roasted, unsalted, chopped
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
For the cake(s):
1 cup millet flour
1 cup superfine rice flour
1 cup sorghum flour
(or use 2 cups all purpose flour instead of the three flours listed above)
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
2/3 cup sugar
zest of one lemon
6 tablespoons butter, at room temperature
1 cup whole milk (I sometimes used coconut milk)
1 1/2 cups cherries, pitted and halved
For the crumble:
Put all the ingredients, minus the nuts in a food processor and pulse until it forms coarse crumbs. Put into a bowl, sit in the nuts , cover and refrigerate while you prepare the cake. You can do this by hand, mixing in all the ingredients together, just make sure the butter is super cold.
Preheat the oven to 350F and position a rack in the middle.
For the cake(s):
Combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda. Stir and set aside.
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, mix the butter and sugar together with the lemon zest until creamy looking. Add the eggs, one at time. Scrape the bottom of the bowl to make sure it is all combined. Reduce the speed and add the the flour mixture and milk alternately, starting and ending with the dry ingredients. Stop the machine and with a spatula gently stir in the cherries.
Pour the mixture into your preferred baking pan, coated with cooking spray. Spread the top with the crumb topping.
Bake for about 45 minutes for one single 8 or 9-inch cake and about 30-35 for smaller ones.
Grilled Salmon, fennel, radish and cherry salad:
This is more of a method/ingredient list than a precise recipes since quantities change with what I have on hand and according to our tastebuds that day. Feel free to experiment with little of a lot of each ingredient!
Makes enough for 4 people:
1 to 2 cups arugula
1 small fennel bulb, fronds removed and thinly sliced
6 radishes, thinly sliced (about 1 cup)
1 cup cherries, pitted
12 oz grilled salmon, flaked
juice of one lemon
2 tablespoons olive oil
salt and pepper
On four plates, layer the arugula, fennel, radish slices, cherries and salmon flakes. Drizzle with lemon juice, olive oil. Season to taste with salt and pepper and sprinkle with some oregano.
You can also mix all the ingredients in a large bowl and mix well with the lemon juice, olive oil, salt pepper and oregano. Divide among 4 serving plates.