06 June, 2009

The cherry on top.

The cherries are back in the garden. For weeks I have been eyeing their evolution from minute green nubs, and they are finally approaching ripeness now. I can really recommend planting one of your own if you can, because they offer so many pleasures for the senses. The blossoms are a well-known delight, and the fruit is a luscious treat for us and so many other creatures--but even the end of cherry season has its particular charm. As the spoiling pits begin to blanket the ground under the tree, dropped there by birds and other passersby, the butterflies arrive in turn and settle in a thick layer, because once the skin has been broken on a cherry, they can suck the juices. So there they are, a mass like you've possibly never seen before, and if you should breeze by inattentively, they rise up into the air, an evanescent cloud to startle and surround you.

Really, it seems superfluous to suggest a recipe; I know that a ripe cherry you have picked yourself cannot be improved upon. Sidebar: I adore a really fruity-tasting cherry jam--and I make jam every year--but I just can't be bothered to make my own cherry jam: the cherries we have, while delicious, are relatively small, so pitting them would be a fairly significant hassle.

So I am going ahead and sharing a cherry recipe; because not everyone has their own cherry tree. I found this particular recipe in Cuisine et Vins, a French periodical, and enjoy it for its slight, tropical twist on the classic clafoutis, which is to the French what cherry pie is to Americans. If this is your first time, please note that a clafoutis is neither baked custard nor cake, but rather a tender somewhere between the two. Please also note that for the purists, a cherry clafoutis is always made without pitting the cherries. They will insist that the pits improve the flavor of the dessert. So unless you have a serious problem with the thought of a little line of pits (or in my case a pile)on your dessert plate, leave them in. This dessert can be made in advance, which gives you a little more time to enjoy the nice weather and anyone who drops in, lured by the perfume of your labor.

Clafoutis Métissé
Serves six

50 g butter, plus extra for greasing the dish
500 g cherries
zest of 1 organic lime
4 eggs
120 g fine sugar
50 g flour
50 g corn starch
30 cl coconut milk
20 cl milk

Preheat oven to 210 C. Grease a medium-sized oven-proof dish. Remove the stems from the cherries, place them in the greased dish. Zest the lime finely and sprinkle the zest over the cherries.

Melt the butter, allow to cool slightly. In a mixing bowl, whip the eggs and fine sugar, all the while gradually incorporating the melted butter and the remaining ingredients. Once the batter is smooth, pour it over the cherries and bake for about 40 minutes. It can be served warm, room temperature, or even cool. I like it best a bit warm.

I want to do to you what spring does with the cherry trees. --Pablo Neruda

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